Publish Date: Out now
How Ninja Mom got this book: Purchased
Loving Kim Jae-Min isn’t always easy: Jae is gun-shy about being openly homosexual. Ex-cop turned private investigator Cole McGinnis doesn’t know any other way to be. Still, he understands where Jae is coming from. Traditional Korean men aren’t gay—at least not usually where people can see them.
But Cole can’t spend too much time unraveling his boyfriend’s issues. He has a job to do. When a singer named Scarlet asks him to help find Park Dae-Hoon, a gay Korean man who disappeared nearly two decades ago, Cole finds himself submerged in the tangled world of rich Korean families, where obligation and politics mean sacrificing happiness to preserve corporate empires. Soon the bodies start piling up without rhyme or reason. With every step Cole takes toward locating Park Dae-Hoon, another person meets their demise—and someone Cole loves could be next on the murderer’s list.
This blurb came from the author’s website here.
I learned to read independently at age five. From then on I was always an avid reader. Books took me places that I could not go in person. They fed my imagination and stroked my soul. But even though I loved to read, there was always one thing missing. I wanted the heroes to be like me; brown, small, ordinary looking and female. I wanted characters like me to have adventures and have crises and solve problems and save the world from utter destruction. I wanted this to feel so normal that nobody would even find it to be extraordinary. Unfortunately those books, those stories, those authors, and those adventures did not exist.
Then imagine my surprise when I discovered at age 11 that there were groups of people even more marginalized than myself. That is when I had my first interactions with members of the gay, lesbian, & transgender communities. My young mind could not understand why they were rejected from the rest of society. Other than what I considered the minor difference of their sexual orientation, they were people just like all other people that I knew. They had hopes and dreams, talents and issues, bills to pay, relationships to build and mend as did the rest of the world.
So it was delightful to be introduced to an author who wrote mystery stories with gay characters that were not put there for shock value. True, their stories are bound around the internal and external conflicts of who they are. However, and this is most important, their sexual orientation was woven into the stories and treated as naturally as breathing.
Dirty Secret is Rhys Ford’s second book with protagonist, Cole McGinnis, an openly gay but now ex-police officer turned private investigator. His new found love interest whom he met in the first Ford novel, Dirty Kiss, is a talented Korean-American photographer, Jae, whose family cannot accept him as he is. The Korean culture does not allow for open sexual deviation from what is considered the norm. The conflicts within cultures are the basis for the mystery that Cole must unwind.
Culture, however is not the only conflict that feeds the mystery. Power, sex, money, gender, duty to family, jealousy and genuine love all play a part. Ford uses the intrigue, blackmail, a suspicious disappearance and yes, multiple murders, to delve into the complex threads of Korean culture and family. Cole is originally asked to find a missing Father or to prove that he is dead made all the more difficult since the dad disappeared over 10 years ago. The reader is then quickly ushered into a surprising and very foreign world that thrives in the Korean enclaves of Southern California.
Though the opening scenes seem to have little to do with the rest of the book they do introduce Cole and his brother Mike who is supportive of Cole’s lifestyle. Then the reader is swept along in Cole’s attempts to discover the truth while dodging bullets, trying to understand the intricacies or Korean culture as well as enduring emotional confrontations within his own family and with his lover, Jae. The erotic scenes of passionate sometimes rough sometimes tender love are not placed just to titillate and break-up dialogue. They make sense as we come to understand the complexities of the characters and their life choices.
As the bodies piled up and the relationships between characters become more convoluted one wonders if the string can ever be untangled. Ford does a remarkable job of untangling the web and bringing closure to the intrigue. But at the very end when there is the sigh of relief the author drops a bombshell that Cole never saw coming. I think readers who like to explore new worlds and get a good mystery at the same time will enjoy Dirty Secret. I would make a request of Ford to help Westerners grapple with foreign names. Please write a list of characters and their relationships with each other at the beginning of the next book. Korean family names are really confusing to the uninitiated.
I give Dirty Secret an A-
***Ninja Mom is a artist/teacher/poet/and mother of four phenomenal children. She now presides in beautiful California. She is also a self taught, talented chef who worked at a bakery and catering business for several years. Besides reading and cooking, she enjoys traveling. The opportunity to meet people in all walks of life from other countries and cultures has always been a delight to her. She did have an opportunity to actually visit South Korea. She says that reading about the Korean cultural conflicts in Dirty Kiss and Dirty Secret provided an opportunity to illuminate more insights into the South Korean national identity.