Reviewed by Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
This is a lot of fun, and there was a sense of “oh goody, a new series!” thrumming through me as I read it. For all that there is some blood-letting (where would Rhys Ford be without it?), there’s also more of a gentle “noir” moodiness to this book than one finds in her other series. Both of the central characters, recovering alcoholic detective Spencer Ricci and half-Chinese demon coroner Xian Carter, are interesting and appealing. Demon coroner? Yep. Seems sort of vampire-y, but we don’t learn everything in this first installment, which is really a teaser novella for what promises to be a really good series. Both men are prickly and aloof, yet we recognize them as both good and just.
The mysteries of Chinatown set the stage in this version of San Francisco, and not for the first time in Ford’s oeuvre. Spencer Ricci and Xian Carter meet in the course of a bizarre murder investigation. Or at least mummification, possibly murder. Both men are outsiders, hot and cool in different ways, appealing to the reader and to each other because of this contrast. The paranormal element is different, and very interesting to me, because Ford takes care to sketch out the moral boundaries embraced by the two demons we meet in the course of the story. She also takes great care to make sure we understand these guys’ personalities, without revealing too much—yet—while assuring that we understand them well enough to sympathize and care about them.
But I knocked off a star for one reason: to me the novella cliffhanger format is an inherent cheat. I’m not used to Ford’s books doing this, even in an intense series. Her books typically feel complete and satisfying, a story well told (however much gunplay and adrenaline it involves). This was all very good, but the last line simultaneously made me smile and pissed me off. This felt like the middle of a book, not the end. It ends at the pivotal moment when Spencer and Xian’s relationship shifts irreversibly. For me, ending the narrative here until book 2 drops is just irritating. It felt like having to leave a restaurant halfway through a great meal.
Oh, I will buy book 2, and I will love the whole series. But until that next book comes out, I’m going to be annoyed. I hope Rhys Ford has the next installment waiting in the wings, because I don’t want to wait too long.