Rhys Ford – Dirty Secret
Author: Rhys Ford
Genre: Mystery, LGBT, Romance
In the sequel to Dirty Kiss, we find Detective Cole McGinnis yet again in the line of fire, as he tries to locate the missing father of Shin-Cho, the nephew of Scarlet’s lover. When our feral nuna introduces Cole to the unsettled young man, it’s apparent from the outset there’s more at stake here than just finding a missing person. Cole soon finds out whatever loose threads he pulls on lead him right back to secrets he thought he left in the upper rooms of the Dirty Kiss club.
Shin-Cho’s father is also a product of a chaebol family tradition, thus not allowing for any small deviations in behavior or lifestyle. His choices, such as they are, lead him to go into hiding; however, not without attempting to extort heinous lump sums of cash from any and all individuals who would try to harm him or his reputation. The secrets that threaten to engulf the Kim family are so thick with the filth of the past, they promise to ensnare anyone within a mile of its blast radius.
That means Cole is left to fend for his life. No two people are more at risk of becoming tragic sacrifices to this tangled web of lies than he and his lover Kim Jae-min — collateral damage from a family so afraid of accepting something outside their societal traditions its members stoop to murder. And now with Jae-min in the mix there’s much more on the line for Cole than simply trying to stay alive long enough to close this case.
Rhys Ford’s second foray into the deep shadows of Dirty Kiss is a gamble. On the one hand, she’s dipping into a pool of familiar characters and a familiar narrative arc — a Korean kid dropped into a web of lies and hatred for the sake of keeping family and societal traditions from cracking. However, she also delves deeper into Cole’s past, allowing us a peek at the ire and pain that spawned someone hell-bent on finding the truth if it kills him, which it almost does on many occasions. The risk is great for this to turn into a maudlin affair, too many subplots, and not enough meat to carry each character’s story to a tidy finish.
However, Ford delivers enough depth and perspective on our main characters that any side characters enrich the story and give more scope to the narrative. It would’ve been easy to let Cole and Jae-min’s relationship fall to the wayside to push the murder mystery plot; however, Ford’s dedication to the burgeoning relationship means that not only do we see it blossom and mature, but we also see the two come to understand each other more.
The story is immensely intriguing, peeling back the layers of a traditional society without disrespecting the culture, but also continuing to probe at the nagging question of how far is too far to protect what’s considered sacred. However, Dirty Secret at its core is a love story — love of one’s self, love of those closest to you, and love of the one thing you’d protect ’til your last breath. The combination of murder, intrigue, and romance makes this a must-read caper for anyone with a love of the genre.