Review by Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
Rook Stevens is a reformed cat-burglar. His boyfriend, Dante Montoya, is a Cuban-Mexican policeman on the LAPD force. When a vengeful prank places Rook inadvertently at the scene of the gruesome murder of a cousin, Dante has to once again deal with his lover’s complicated history and even more complicated family.
I haven’t read the first book in this series, and it’s a testimony to Rhys Ford as a writer that I found I didn’t need to. Rook Stevens and Dante Montoya are fantastic characters, and as fully realized in this sequel as they could be. Ford is the master of emotional sturm und drang within the detective genre, and while her books can, at moments, be too much, Tramps and Thieves balances her penchant for high emotion and, well, murder and mayhem, perfectly.
Which is not to say that Ford’s characteristic love of violent action isn’t present; it is. Her books are not for the faint-hearted. From beginning to end, Rook and Dante find themselves surrounded by blood and bullets. It can be exhausting, but Ford gives the reader enough personal time with these two men so that their relationship both drives the action and remains the emotional core of the book.
In her typical, deliciously overwrought way, Ford drags us deep into the minds of both Rook and Dante, picking apart every aspect of their feelings about each other and letting the reader in on each thought that flashes through their minds. Rook trusts nobody—except for Dante. Dante, for his part, knows exactly what Rook is, but also knows he got that way. Just as Rook understands how well Dante comprehends him, Dante knows the depth of Rook’s goodness and his desperate need for something like normality.
Beyond this, Ford delves deeply into the carefully-drawn secondary characters to create a rich emotional and psychological context for her two leads. Even the tertiary players are vivid. Archibald Martin, Rook’s autocratic grandfather, and Hank Camden, Dante’s best friend/partner are two that jump out as particularly interesting men, each of whom anchors the lead characters in the overall narrative. Archie, deeply flawed and probably the indirect cause of Rook’s entire off-the-rails childhood, is a terrible man trying hard to be better. Hank is the idealized father/brother who highlights Dante’s wish for a real family.
Sometimes Rhys Ford’s wham-bam plots just leave me wrung out; but “Tramps and Thieves” was immensely satisfying from beginning to end.