Reviewed by Helyce
NOTE: slight spoilers from previous books.
From Goodreads: For ex-cop turned private investigator Cole McGinnis, each day brings a new challenge. Too bad most of them involve pain and death. Claudia, his office manager and surrogate mother, is still recovering from a gunshot, and Cole’s closeted boyfriend, Kim Jae-Min, suddenly finds his teenaged sister dumped in his lap. Meanwhile, Cole has his own sibling problems—most notably, a mysterious half brother from Japan whom his older brother, Mike, is determined they welcome with open arms.
As if his own personal dramas weren’t enough, Cole is approached by Madame Sun, a fortune-teller whose clients have been dying at an alarming rate. Convinced someone is after her customers, she wants the matter investigated, but the police think she’s imagining things. Hoping to put Sun’s mind at ease, Cole takes the case and finds himself plunged into a Gordian knot of lies and betrayal where no one is who they are supposed to be and Death seems to be the only card in Madame Sun’s deck.
Rhys Ford has become a favorite author of mine and after the cliffhanger at the end of the last book, Dirty Secret, I could not wait to read this one and I was not disappointed. I think what I loved most in this installment is that while we still get the trademark humor and suspense of Cole’s latest case along with the familial problems of both Cole and Jae-what came through strongly was the emotional content. In this book, Cole and Jae’s relationship is truly put to the test and it was a rough ride.
If that wasn’t enough we meet Ichiro who is Cole’s half brother. Cole had grown up thinking that his mother had died giving birth to him, but it was a lie. Learning that she’d left him and gone back to Japan, married again and had another son was just too much for him. He’s dealing with feelings of abandonment and is confused. So much so that he cannot understand why his brother, Mike, has such a different reaction to it all.
“Mike, do you know what Ichiro means?” I turned in my chair and glared at him. “You follow enough baseball to know. It means first son. That’s what he was to her. She left us, Mike. She fucking left us with our asshole father and walked away.”
Cole and Mike have very different attitudes toward welcoming Ichiro who grew up knowing that he had two half brothers in the states. Now an adult, he wants to meet them and have a relationship and Cole is just not ready. But Ichiro doesn’t wait for an invitation, he just shows up one day and from his description he will be a very yummy addition to this series.
“The face he wore was a bit like mine but, more importantly, nearly an exact echo of Mike’s. Lankier than Mike, he probably stood a few inches taller as well. Dressed in Doc Martens, jet-black jeans, and a gray T-shirt with the words L’Arc-en-Ciel on it, he would have blended in with the hipsters across the street, except that his jaw-length red-streaked ebony hair was clean and his chin was bare of any scruff. I couldn’t see a patch of his milky skinned arms through the tattoos running up from his wrists and disappearing under his short sleeves.”
Yes, I was very excited by the description of Ichiro! He didn’t take any of Cole’s crap either and Cole was surprised by how likable Ichiro was and how easy he was to be around in spite of his feelings toward their mother. Ichiro was not able to answer all of Cole’s questions, but he did give Cole some important information and I loved that he was able to put aside some of those feelings to be willing to explore a relationship with Ichiro.
Jae, too, is dealing with a sibling-his younger sister Tiffany, who arrives completely unannounced to stay with him. Jae’s family is unaware of him being gay. With Tiffany staying with him, he starts to question his relationship with Cole and the fact that his family would never accept him as a gay man. It didn’t matter that he worked to support his mother and sisters; if he is gay, he would be shunned. Ms. Ford does a great job here in showing both sides of the Asian culture. There is so much pressure to be a certain way and no room being different. In Jae’s case, he’s lived the lie for so many years it’s just a part of him. When push comes to shove, though, he struggles with his obligations to his family and cannot see a way to keeping them and Cole.
In the midst of all this emotion, Cole does have a case and it smoothly rides along throughout the story. With his faithful sidekick Bobby by his side, Cole continues to get shot at and places himself in dangerous situations that he barely escapes from. I admit I had a bit of trouble keeping track of the players involved in the ‘suspense’ part of this story. Some of the Korean names are so alike; something the author points out as part of the story in fact, and I just had a bit of trouble keeping everyone straight. It’s difficult and at times pulled me out of the story as I tried to remember who is who and what the relationships are. I have to say, though, that I was surprised by who the bad guy turned out to be.
Cole and Jae experience some important milestones in their relationship in this story and parts of it were just heartbreaking. I was brought to tears on more than one occasion. Cole has already had one lover literally ripped away from him and his heart just can’t take any more. In spite of his strong feelings for Jae, though, he knows that he will do whatever is best for Jae, no matter the cost to him. In this, the author succeeds in giving us one hell of an emotional roller coaster ride here and we have no choice but to stand by and watch.
Apparently Ms. Ford has now decided that she needs to end her stories with a surprise of sorts and in this book, we are totally blindsided when someone from Cole’s past shows up. I’m guessing it’s a small lead in to the next book which I will be impatiently waiting for. While I’ve enjoyed the previous two books, I think Dirty Laundry is the best of the three so far. It really is a perfect mix of everything I’ve come to expect from this author. With a stronger focus on the relationship of Cole and Jae and them coming to some important decisions, I cannot wait to see what’s next!