Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: M/M romantic suspense
Series: Sinners #1
Length: 260 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: December 24, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
There’s a dead man in Miki St. John’s vintage Pontiac GTO, and he has no idea how it got there.
After Miki survives the tragic accident that killed his best friend and the other members of their band, Sinner’s Gin, all he wants is to hide from the world in the refurbished warehouse he bought before their last tour. But when the man who sexually abused him as a boy is killed and his remains are dumped in Miki’s car, Miki fears Death isn’t done with him yet.
Kane Morgan, the SFPD inspector renting space in the art co-op next door, initially suspects Miki had a hand in the man’s murder, but Kane soon realizes Miki is as much a victim as the man splattered inside the GTO. As the murderer’s body count rises, the attraction between Miki and Kane heats up. Neither man knows if they can make a relationship work, but despite Miki’s emotional damage, Kane is determined to teach him how to love and be loved — provided, of course, Kane can catch the killer before Miki becomes the murderer’s final victim.
I pulled Sinner’s Gin out of the endless TBR stack as a treat to myself. It’s seldom these days that I get a chance to read a book just because “I wanna” and not because I’ve promised a book tour or picked up an ARC from NetGalley or Edelweiss that comes packages with its own commitment to read and review.
Not that I don’t love a good chunk of the books I get from those sources and in those ways, but sometimes I miss the days when I could read something “just because”.
I had to provide myself with an excuse this time, too. I wanted to read at least one book for Pride Month, and I’ll confess that I needed a relatively short book (under 300 pages) to round out the week because of, well, reasons. And because I love Rhys’ Ford’s other series and have had the Sinners series on my iPad forever, this seemed like the time to finally read it.
Boy, howdy, am I glad I did!
The story in Sinner’s Gin is incredibly sad, horribly frightening, and ultimately marvelous. It takes a lot of twists and turns to get to its surprising, in fact, downright shocking, conclusion. And I loved every minute of it.
One of the terrific things about this story is that it starts in a way you don’t expect. Where Olivia Cunning’s Sinners on Tour series shows a rock band at the height of its success, and sometimes excess, Sinner’s Gin shows the pride before the fall, and it cuts like a knife.
They’ve just won a Grammy. The garage band has finally made it to the top, and while they are all still young enough to enjoy it. Tragedy strikes in an instant, and a drunk driver totals their limo on the way back from the awards show, ending three of their lives, plus the limo driver, in a squeal of crashing metal.
We meet survivor Miki St. John months later, and he’s just barely surviving. His extensive injuries are still providing more than enough physical pain to give him nightmares, but its the survivor’s guilt that keeps him stuck in the sea of despond.
Until the dog he won’t even admit is his drags a cop into his life. And until someone leaves the dead body of one of the men who abused him as a child stuffed into his dead bandmate’s classic car.
A car that Miki can’t even drive. It’s just one of the many memories he hangs onto of the only time in his young life that he belonged. Or was happy.
The murder changes everything. But Miki has to wade back through all the bad shit in his life before he is truly ready to reach for something good. The cop that his dog drags into their lives, and into their hearts.
Escape Rating A-: Sinner’s Gin starts with a tragedy, and ends with a shock that kicks over everything that the characters have assumed at the beginning, although they don’t know it yet.
I will say that the whipcrack of that ending answered my questions about how this series was going to continue. Just before the end, it seemed like Miki had worked out his demons, and the mystery was solved with the murderer pleading his case before a much higher court. I didn’t know where the story could go next. And then boom!
Although Kane (and Dude’s) introduction into Miki’s life provide the impetus for the story, and sometimes the impetus for Miki to just manage to get out of bed, this is Miki’s story. It’s his pain, his anguish, and ultimately his re-emergence into the light that gives the story its heart and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.
At first, the mystery of the trail of dead bodies (and dead body parts) feels like insult added to injury. Miki was lost in the foster care system until he got himself out at 15 and was discovered by the very fledgling band Sinner’s Gin.
He wasn’t able to get justice for the men who physically and sexually abused him, because they were upstanding members of the community and he was considered mixed-race trash who should be grateful for the roof over his head.
In other words, the system failed him. And it starts out failing him again when the body of one of his tormentors is discovered in his garage. It’s obvious that Miki couldn’t have committed the crime, but the cops still circle him like vultures. Until Kane Morgan reaches into the mess and pulls Miki to safety, and into his arms.
It’s a tough time for either of them to be starting a relationship. Miki has never healed from any of the damage that was done to him, either by his childhood or the accident that took his friends. Kane should not get involved with a suspect, or even a person of interest, in a murder case he’s investigating. But it happens anyway.
One of the lovely and marvelous things about the start of Kane’s and Miki’s relationship is that no one is giving Kane any crap over being gay. He is accepted for who he is by everyone, both his fellow cops and his family – not that there isn’t considerable overlap between those two groups. He does take some heat for getting involved with a potential suspect, but that’s an equal opportunity problem.
We do end up following Kane as he is frustrated by his inability to deal with Miki’s very dark night of the soul. Miki is being victimized all over again by the deaths of his tormentors, and by the media leak of his trauma. All Kane can do is be there for him, because Miki has to conquer his demons himself.
I also liked the way that Miki figures out not who exactly, but what drives the person who is attempting to frame him. And the way that he ultimately saves himself.
Just a couple of little niggles that keep this from being an A or A+, as much as I enjoyed it. Kane and Miki’s relationship feels like it goes from zero to 60 in no time flat. While sometimes a sex-into-love relationship works, this was more of a “get under each other’s skin into love and sex” relationship. They seemed to fall in love with each other without this reader feeling it happen. YMMV. It also seemed like Kane’s mother Brigid was a bit of a stereotype of the overpowering mother. I would have pushed her out of my apartment, too. I wanted a bit more nuance to her. Or something.
But I loved Dude. He is such a cute scamp, and exactly what Miki needed.
I can’t wait to make up an excuse to read the next book in this series, Whiskey and Wry. I desperately want to discover how that BOOM of an ending plays out.
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