Formats available: ebook
Genres: M/M romance, romantic suspense
Series: Dirty Deeds #1
Published by Rogue Firebird Press on March 4, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Crime Scene Cleaner [kraɪm siːnˈkliːnə] - Cleans up crime scenes…before the cops know there is one.
People always say ‘you can’t go home again’. It turns out that doesn’t count as a guarantee…especially not during a global pandemic.
After the jobs in LA started to dry up, crime scene cleaner Grade Pulaski was forced to pack up and move home. He loves his family, but the last thing he ever wanted was to face the ghosts he’d left back in Sweeny, Kentucky.
Also, the place just sucks.
He certainly isn’t going to stay any longer than necessary. The plan is to save up enough money to move back to LA and give his business a kick-start. The problem is that, as previously mentioned, Sweeny’s a hole and the locals are anything but professional.
Now a body has gone missing, Grade’s reputation is being held hostage, and people keep asking whether his Dad really did run off with 100 grand of meth in the back of Dodge. Plus, even though you shouldn’t sleep with your employers, crime lord Clay Traynor is exactly the sort of bad idea that Grade can’t resist. Tattooed, bad news, and dangerous.
…oh, yeah. Grade’s job is to clean up the crime scene before the cops know someone’s dead. That’s why he needs to sort this out before he gets a bad review on dark net Yelp.
“It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it,” or so the old saying goes. And then there’s the whole idea of “dirty work” which is not the same thing at all. Although when we first meet crime scene cleaner Grade Pulaski, the job he has to do is both. Cleaning a public washroom that hasn’t been cleaned since the turn of the century – possibly since the turn of the 19th into the 20th – is just a dirty job that someone really ought to have been doing all along. Cleaning up the place so thoroughly that no evidence of the headshot corpse currently “littering” the place remains to be found – ever – is dirty work all the way around.
But that clandestine clean-up job is only the beginning of Grade’s misadventures with the “Catfish Mafia” that runs everything dirty and/or operating under the table in Sweeny – and it seems like that whole region of Kentucky.
Grade’s stuck in the middle – every bit as much as he’s stuck back in Sweeny – when his truck, with the evidence sloshing around in a barrel in the back gets carjacked. (Truckjacked?)
The job he thought was going to add to his “getting out of Sweeny” fund instead starts adding to his “reasons he wanted to leave yesterday.” Along with one long, tall, dangerous reason to stay.
Escape Rating B: I don’t think I was expecting a “Mafia romance” to be set among the tiny towns of Kentucky. So I have to admit that threw me for a bit. As did the fairly graphic description of just what Grade has to go through to clean up the mess that body made – in a place that surely didn’t need to be any messier.
But once the suspense part of this romantic suspense story kicks into gear – with the truckjacking – the need to figure out just what the hell is going on sets its hooks deep. Into Grade because he has to solve it to get out of this mess alive – and into the reader because it’s just such a damn convoluted puzzle.
On top of that – sometimes literally – there’s the hard, slightly mean and a bit edgy relationship that springs up between Grade and Clay Traynor. Clay seems to be the enforcer for the local branch of that Catfish Mafia, and its his job to keep an eye on Grade until someone decides whether the cleaner is in this mess up to his neck – or whether he’s going to end up in one of his own cleaning barrels. That Clay does most of Grade-minding from up close and personal is a surprise to pretty much everyone. Especially the two of them.
But it’s that suspense plot that kept this reader turning pages. Because the situation that seemed fairly simple at the beginning is absolutely anything but by the dirty, twisty end.
Guest Post from TA Moore + Chapter 2 of Clean Hands (check out Chapter 1 at MM Romance Reviewed)
Thanks for letting me pop in to talk about my latest book, Dirty Work, which comes out on March 4. This is the first book in the Dirty Deeds trilogy and I had a lot of fun with it! It’s available online – https://books2read.com/Dirty-Work-Dirty-Deeds-Book-1 – and I hope you like it! I had a lot of fun writing it!
I also hope you enjoy ‘Clean Hands’ a short story prequel to the series.
Clean Hands – Chapter Two
Harrison sat on the floor in front of the stained couch, a slice of frying steak held to his face, Watery blood dribbled down his face and stained the pearl-decorated collar of his blouse. Grade wasn’t sure if it was his blood or cow blood.
“That’s for a black eye,” Grade said. “It’s not going to cut it.”
He did have a black eye. His cheek was also puffed out and swollen, red and shiny-tight, and his lower lip split. Old blood scabbed along his chin and down his neck. Grade looked away uncomfortably as his stomach turned.
Shannon stopped their restless pacing of the room to give Grade an aggrieved look. “It’s not going to hurt is it?” he snapped. “Or do you have a better idea?”
“Call an ambulance,” Grade suggested.
That made Harrison move the steak away from his face. Under it his eye was swollen shut, like a golf ball jammed into the socket, and his eyebrow was split. He slurred out something that was probably an objection from the way he gestured ‘stop’ with his free hand.
“We can’t,” Shannon said, to back him up. “The accident…it wasn’t…we didn’t come off worst.”
“There was another car?” he asked.
Shannon opened their mouth to answer, thought better of it, and pressed their lips together as they shook his head in a quick ‘no’.
“And Harrison already has a record. If it goes to court, he’ll get the book thrown at him.”
“Say you were driving.”
Shannon pulled their glasses down their nose and leaned in so Grade could get a good view of their pupils. They were huge, blown so wide that the blue of Shannon’s iris was a pencil line around them. “You think I’m gonna pass a drug test?”
Their breath was stale with weed and the hot, sweet hit of formaldehyde. Grade leaned away from it.
“Why is this my problem?” he asked.
Shannon wiped their nose on the back of their hand and sniffed loudly. They gave Grade a challenging look. “You think you’re going to find somewhere else to live this cheap? Or that my aunt will keep you on at the funeral home if I get sent down?” they said. “Not that you’ll need to worry about that when Harrison’s dad finds out you’re the reason his son’s in court. I told you he’s connected.”
That part Grade wasn’t so worried about. Harrison had also claimed, at various times, that his mother was a movie star, that he had friends in Hollywood, and that there was an A-List actor who’d take him away from all this in a heartbeat…if Harrison’s independence wasn’t so important to him. And yet he had a shitty room in a shared house with the rest of them, and he regularly stole other people’s food.
The job thing was real though. Even with his shifts at the funeral home Grade was barely able to pay rent and buy food without dipping into his savings. If he lost it he’d be on the bus back to Sweeny in a couple of weeks. If he could beg the money for a ticket off his mom.
“I didn’t have anything to do with this,” Grade said.
“That’s not what I’ll tell them.”
Grade stared at Shannon for a grim second. Yeah, that was what he should have expected.
“OK,” he said. “OK. What the fuck do you want from me?”
Shannon just stared at him blankly for a second. Then they sniffed again and shrugged jerkily. “I don’t fucking know! Something.”
It could be argued that Grade had brought that on himself. He took a deep breath and held it for a second.
“OK,” he repeated. “Maybe it’s not as bad as you think. Where did the accident happen? We’ll go out there, see what state he’s in and…”
The confused look on Shannon’s face wasn’t going to lead to anything good. Grade could just tell. He stopped for a second and wondered if it had been such a bright idea to leave Sweeny after all. LA had been the dream, but it turned out there were shitty, dumb people here too.
Except that he had to pay rent to them.
“What did you do?” Grade asked.
Shannon apparently still had enough brain cells linked up to feel awkward. They shuffled their feet and then pointed down, at the ground between their mismatched trainers.
“…it was in the garage,” he said in a small, hoarse voice like a failed whisper.
The two of them stood on the cracked concrete floor and stared at the man. He was pinned against the wall of the garage by the grille of Harrison’s dune buggy looking jeep. His torso was slumped forward from the hips, limply sprawled over the crumpled, bright yellow hood of the vehicle. In the silence Grade could hear the sound of something dripping. It might be blood. It might be brake fluid. It could be both.
Dead bodies didn’t bleed once the heart stopped beating, but they could be drained. It was what they did at the funeral home, although the method there was a lot tidier. They had a bucket, for a start.
“Maybe he’s not dead,” Shannon said. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, his shoes scuffed over the concrete floor, and chewed on the ragged edge of his thumbnail. “Do you think maybe…”
Grade pulled his attention away from the mangled obvious corpse and gave Shannon a disbelieving look.
“No,” he said sarcastically. “I don’t think he’s alive.”
He had been. That odd, quiet switch in Grade’s head, the one that he had instead of panic, had flicked on and methodically noted all the evidence that pointed to that. The smeared bloody hand prints slapped onto the dirty hood and the evidence of flesh slippage along the man’s thighs where he’d tried to pull himself free. It had taken him a while to die. That wasn’t uncommon with some catastrophic crush injuries, the body really didn’t want to deal with something like that. So it just didn’t. He probably would have died quicker if Harrison had tried to reverse–although the fact she hadn’t would not do her any favors if it got to court.
Right now, though, the man was definitely dead.
Grade shoved both hands back through his air and laced his finger together around the back of his skull.
“Shannon,” he said. “What happened?”
“I told you!” Shannon said. “It was an accident. Sorta.”
That was such an obvious lie that Grade didn’t even bother to point it out. “Not what I asked.”
“He’s a dealer, I know,” Shannon said. They fiddled nervously with the button on the cuff of their shirt as they tried very hard to stop looking at the dead man. “I’ve bought from him before, but at work. You know? Except Harrison and I wanted to pre-game tonight, before we went out to the club. So I asked Johnny to meet me here. He had the gear, the deal went down fine, but then Harrison got back and he fucking freaked out.”
“Harrison or Johnny?”
Shannon twisted the button hard enough it snapped. They let it drop to the floor. “Both?” he said with a shrug. “Apparently Harrison had sugar-trapped him or something, stole a shitload of money. I don’t know, they were fucking screaming at each other. Harrison got in the car–to go, to run–then Johnny said that he’d be back and he’d have his boss with him…and I think it was an accident. I think Harrison just put the car in the wrong gear. You know?”
“If it was an accident, we can call the cops,” Grade pointed out. “Just explain what–”
“No,” Shannon said. “We can’t. OK? You need to deal with this.”
“Me? I need to deal with it?” Grade said, his voice thin and incredulous. He jabbed his fingers against his breastbone. “Why the hell is this suddenly my responsibility?”
Shannon looked shifty. “I don’t know,” he said. “Someone has to and you deal with dead bodies all the time. I don’t wanna touch it.”
Grade pulled a face at that and turned back to the dead man as he weighed up his options. He could ignore Shannon and call the cops. It wouldn’t actually do the dead man any good, he was past that, and it would screw them all over. And…Grade had his own reasons for wanting to stay off any cop’s radar.
“You owe me,” Grade said. Most of the time he worked to keep the Kentucky out of his voice, sanded it off with Youtube videos on elocution and careful mimicry of the rest of LA. This time he didn’t bother, it lay thick on the words. “After this. You really owe me.”
Catch the next chapter Wednesday at Two Chicks Obsessed and follow the tour for the rest of the story!
About the Author:
TA Moore is a Northern Irish writer of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance novels. A childhood in a rural, seaside town fostered in her a suspicious nature, a love of mystery, and a streak of black humour a mile wide. As her grandmother always said, ‘she’d laugh at a bad thing that one’, mind you, that was the pot calling the kettle black. TA Moore studied History, Irish mythology, English at University, mostly because she has always loved a good story. She has worked as a journalist, a finance manager, and in the arts sector before she finally gave in to a lifelong desire to write.
Coffee, Doc Marten boots, and good friends are the essential things in life. Spiders, mayo, and heels are to be avoided.
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