Narrated by Greg Tremblay
It’s no secret that when I’m looking for new audiobooks to listen to or review, 99.9% of the time, I look at the narrator’s name first. Because of this, I find I’m much more likely to genre-hop in audio than I am in print, so when I saw that Greg Tremblay – whose narration I enjoyed very much in Rachel Grant’s Tinderbox earlier this year – had recorded a number of books by Rhys Ford, an author I haven’t come across before, and because I enjoy romantic suspense, I decided to jump in and test the water.
Murder and Mayhem was released in 2015 and follows LA cop, Dante Montoya and a former cat burglar named Rook Stevens as they work together to track down a murderer and whoever is responsible for several attempts on Rook’s life. It’s a well-paced and entertaining story, written with an extremely sure hand and laced with humour (and several laugh-out-loud moments), pop culture references that made me smile and lots of lovely sexual tension between the protagonists. When you add in a truly outstanding performance by Mr. Tremblay, this was an audiobook I couldn’t bear to put down.
Rook Stevens got out of the burglary business a few years earlier, after he was almost imprisoned on charges trumped up by a frustrated cop who had been trying to nail him for ages. Rook’s been legit ever since; he owns a pop culture/memorabilia store called Potters Field, and is pretty content with a life in which he depends on no-one, has few (if any) friends, anonymous sex when he wants it and generally keeps himself to himself. When, however, he stumbles – literally – across the dead body of a former associate in his store, all hell breaks loose, and he finds himself in custody and accused of murder.
Enter Dante Montoya (and yes, Rook – a huge movie buff – can’t resist mentioning the six fingered man!), a Mexican/Cuban cop whose embittered former partner is the guy who tried to frame Rook, almost ending Dante’s career along with his own. Dante and Rook have a more personal history, too; they almost hooked up once a few years back, and the attraction that leapt between them then has never really gone away. Dante been trying to uncover some evidence against Rook for years, but he’s one slippery character and Dante has never been able to pin anything on him – until now. A dead body in his store, Rook covered in blood… it’s an open and shut case. Except it isn’t. When another body is found, Dante begins to have suspicions that he might be on the wrong track, an impression further cemented when Rook is shot at in the street. An attempted hit and run, an explosion… someone clearly has it in for Rook and wants to prevent Dante from asking questions, finding out who is behind the murders and who wants Rook dead.
The story is nothing you’ve probably not seen or heard before if you’re a fan of mysteries and police procedurals, but much as I enjoyed it, what I really loved about the book are the fabulous characters Ms. Ford has created and the scorching chemistry and steamy romance that evolves between Rook and Dante. Rook is a complex character; his mother ran away from her rich family when she was a teenager and joined – not the circus, but the carnival circuit – and eventually dumped her young son altogether. As a result, Rook has abandonment issues, he doesn’t trust easily and isn’t comfortable with intimacy. He never puts down roots, and he has a difficult relationship with his grandfather, an incredibly wealthy man who despises most of his offspring and their offspring, but who sees something of himself in Rook and wants to build something with him but doesn’t know how.
Dante’s family threw him out when he told them he was gay, and he went to live with his Uncle Manny, a former drag queen – who is completely adorable. And Dante is just gorgeous, a wonderful mixture of tenderness and strength, he’s not afraid to go after what he wants and he’s refreshingly honest about how he feels. He and Rook are chalk and cheese and yet they’re perfect for one another. Rook is almost always ready to run, but Dante’s gentle persistence and his assertions that Rook can trust him gradually start to take root in Rook’s mind, and though it’s hard for him, he does begin to take baby-steps on the road to letting someone in and allowing them to love him and vice versa. It’s an extremely well written relationship and I’m eager to see where it goes in future books.
The other thing that really stands out is the humour. Rook is marvellously snarky, and Dante is no slouch in that department, so there is plenty of witty banter between the pair, and Hank, Dante’s partner, is a hoot.
I’m sure I’d have enjoyed the story had I read the book, but Greg Tremblay’s performance just blew me away and I can say with absolute certainty that it enhanced my overall enjoyment to a considerable degree. It’s so much more than the icing on the cake; he breathes life into the characters, brings out every emotional nuance and – basically – doesn’t put a foot wrong. His pacing is perfect, his comic timing is excellent and there aren’t enough superlatives to describe his portrayals of the two main characters. Dante is quite softly spoken and his speech is measured in a way that conveys a clear sense of authority and that this is a guy who is comfortable with who he is. I’m no expert when it comes to Mexican/Cuban accents, but it seems to me that Mr. Tremblay gets it exactly right; Dante’s accent is slight, but it’s there (and very sexy when called for!) He does an equally terrific job with Rook, really bringing out the emotional fragility and vulnerability lying just beneath the sarcastic surface he presents to the world. All the secondary characters are portrayed just as skilfully as the principals, from Rook’s cantankerous grandfather to his friend and assistant, the blowsy Charlene and the fabulous Hank, a down-to-earth cop who hides a razor sharp mind behind a mask of folksy congeniality. Oh, and the English accent he uses to portray the cameo role of a female, British pathologist is spot on. I was in accent heaven :)
As is obvious, I loved Murder and Mayhem and lucky for me, book two, Tramps and Thieves is already available. I can’t wait to spend some more time with this tremendous group of characters and to find what mischief Rook gets himself into next.
TITLE: Murder and Mayhem
AUTHOR: Rhys Ford
NARRATED BY: Greg Tremblay
GENRE: Romantic Suspense
STEAM FACTOR: Glad I had my earbuds in
REVIEWER: CazBuy Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford on Amazon EXCERPT: