Formats available: ebook
Genres: M/M romance, urban fantasy
Series: Chinatown Demons #1
Published by Rogue Firebird Press on November 30th 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Chinatown, San Francisco.
A different place — another time— and where the city’s streets keep secrets, shadowy mysteries SFPD Inspector Spencer Ricci needs to dig through after he finds himself on a case involving a dismembered, mummified man in a restaurant’s locked storage room.
Spencer drags around a lot of baggage, including an ongoing battle with the bottle and a long career as an LAPD detective he’d set fire to in a blaze of booze-soaked mistakes. San Francisco is supposed to be a new start but his old ghosts haunt him, beckoning him back into his self-destructive bad habits. Bad habits that include contemplating doing dirty things with the wrong kind of guy and this time, it’s a sleek, cold-tempered medical examiner named Xian Carter with a complicated reputation.
For a century-old demon, Xian Carter is content with his secretive life. Hiding his nature from the mundane world, he blends in with the city’s inhabitants as best he can but even the best of predators make mistakes. Delving into the mysteries of the dead provide a welcome distraction from endless nights and hiding in plain sight amuses him, until something supernaturally wicked comes knocking on his door with an extremely hot, broody Inspector close behind.
Murder makes for strange bedfellows and this one is no exception. The twists and turns of the case leaves Xian and Spencer on a wild goose chase after clues but Xian can only hope there’s a human at the end of the trail—because the last thing San Francisco needs is another predator.
I feel teased. Intrigued, slightly exasperated, and definitely, definitely teased.
I was expecting Bound to be a bit like Dim Sum Asylum, and it kind of is. Bound, like that previous marvelous story, takes place in a slightly off-kilter version of San Francisco. A version of our world where magic definitely exists, although the acceptance of that magic is less in-your-face and more under-the-table in this version of that storied city.
Detective Spencer Ricci certainly starts out this adventure as garden-variety human. Albeit the kind of garden variety that includes a lot of scars, a lot of baggage, a history of alcoholism and a need to make something out of his one last chance at being a cop.
Dr. Xian Carter, on the other hand, is absolutely not original recipe human – or at least not any longer. He might have been, once.
But that once was a century and a half ago. Another continent. Another lifetime. Considering how much has changed since the mid-19th century, another world.
Dr. Xian Carter is a medical examiner for the San Francisco Police Department. He’s the one who gets all the weird and wacky cases. And the case that brings Spencer and Xian together is way past weird and wacky and over the line into downright bizarre.
Somebody found a mummy. Not an honest-to-Bast Egyptian mummy, but a contemporary murder victim. Mummified. It’s Spencer Ricci’s job to figure out who wanted the victim dead. And for that matter, the identity of the desiccated corpse.
It’s up to Xian Carter to learn how, and why and whether this mess means that someone is invading his territory. Because Xian Carter is a demon, and San Francisco belongs to him.
And possibly, so does Spencer Ricci.
Escape Rating A-: Damn, this was good. And DAMN, this was short. As I said at the outset, I feel teased. The case is fascinating, the setup is wild, the chemistry between Spencer and Xian is explosive, and I want more of this world and this story pretty much yesterday.
I wanted to scream “NO!” when this story ended. Because it does end, and it does feel like this piece is complete – but it’s such a tiny piece of such an obviously greater (and great) world. Rhys hints at so much more to discover in this San Francisco, so much tension, so much angst, and SO MUCH MAGIC!
Also magical cats. Not that all cats aren’t at least a bit magical. But seriously, magical cats for the win!
An Alternate San Francisco, Just A Step To The Left Of Our Own Glittering City — (a word from our author, Rhys Ford)
When I began to write Bound, I knew I wanted to have a bit of fantastical combined with a dash of Asian horror. Sort of. The monsters in Asian mythology are usually a bit odd and driven by fierce emotions, usually revenge. There were bits and pieces I wanted to pull together as well as give a shout out to inspirations along the way. Since I’m going to be writing this as a serialized saga, it allows me to tease out bits and pieces of the world as I go, which is a lot of fun.
There’s a long argument of the pros and cons of having a paranormal world that’s hidden or out in the open. I’ve done both, most notably in Ink and Shadows for hidden and blurring the lines of hidden and open in the Hellsinger series. For the Chinatown Demons serializations, I wanted to do a hidden world where only the very wise could see the dangers but people knew something was off about the supernatural. Kind of a step away from the world we live in now.
So with all that being said, let’s talk about world building and what the underlying layers of the Chinatown Demons’ worlds hold.
OH BUT FIRST… A GIVEAWAY! RED ENVELOPE MONEY!
At each stop, enter to win a $20 gift certificate to the online retailer of your choice! Be sure to enter at every stop!
One of the major personality quirks of Xian’s that I’ll explore is his fondness for gambling. Well, his innate love of playing hanafuda, which is a flower card game. I grew up playing hanafuda in Hawai’i and while there are a few variations of the game, it’s the simplest one to master. I’ve even taught Greg Tremblay, the narrator of Bound, how to play it. It’s addicting and challenges the player depending on the level you want to play at. A child could play it and then with the addition of yaku, the playing level becomes harder. It’s a game of patience and calculation or simply matching the cards. Really, it all depends on the level of play.
Which brings me to Xian and his love of the game.
I’m going to include a website link here for the game just so you have a reference. There are very complicated yaku and the link shows some of the basic ones. Only some of these are played in the Hawai’i but it gives you a good idea of how they are constructed. Also, the Hawai’i game does not have the plain cards as 1 pt. For us, they are rubbish and discarded.
Link to basic hanafuda rules: https://www.hanafuda.fr/en/
Hawai’i rules: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaiian-style_Koi-Koi
In a lot of ways, hanafuda play marks the passage of time. Each suit represents a month as is depicted by a seasonal plant associated with that month. Since the play can vary, there’s a lot of intrigue while laying down your cards and that’s something that would greatly appeal to Xian. See, he truly is by nature a cat and this is one way he plays with humans. His brother, Jiro, has his own ways and those are best left for another time.
The thing with hanafuda and playing in Chinatown gambling halls is not just an exchange of money because trust me, fortunes have been won and lost betting on the appearance of the yakuza card at the wrong moment but there also is the very good chance that a favour or two will be won. Oftentimes, that’s a greater coin than actual cash. Xian is a dealer of secrets and he hoards them, tucking them away until he needs them later on. Remember, for him, this is a long game. Someone might not realize a secret shared over whiskey and cigarettes twenty years ago will come back to haunt him but it will and Xian will probably be the one to reap the rewards.
Gambling is a very serious business and hanafuda games are a great place to do business. Or even simply overhear business. While it’s technically a “Japanese” game, it’s flowed over into other types of dens, including mahjongg parlors but tile play is sometimes too chancy. Xian likes a game he can manipulate and guide.
Which is kind of why Spencer intrigues him so much. Inspector Ricci is not one to be led by the nose and Xian is very much aware of that. In a lot of ways, he is as enigmatic as the hanafuda deck, changeable and with varying levels of emotional power.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rhys Ford is an award-winning author with several long-running LGBT+ mystery, thriller, paranormal, and urban fantasy series and is a two-time LAMBDA finalist with her Murder and Mayhem novels. She is also a 2017 Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Awards for her novels Ink and Shadows and Hanging the Stars. She is published by Dreamspinner Press and DSP Publications.
She’s also quite skeptical about bios without a dash of something personal and really, who doesn’t mention their cats, dog and cars in a bio? She shares the house with Harley, a grey tuxedo with a flower on her face, Badger, a disgruntled alley cat who isn’t sure living inside is a step up the social ladder as well as a ginger cairn terrorist named Gus. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird and enjoys murdering make-believe people.
Rhys can be found at the following locations:
Facebook Group: Coffee, Cats, and Murder: https://www.facebook.com/groups/635660536617002/
Rhys is giving away a $20 Gift Card to the online retailer of the winner’s choice at every stop on this tour. Fill out the rafflecopter for your chance to win!