I so enjoyed Murder and Mayhem, the first book in Rhys Ford’s series about the cop and the (ex) cat burglar, that I was tempted to move straight on to book two, Tramps and Thieves immediately it came out. But then I told myself to be a good little reviewer and listen to some of the other things that were – admittedly – ahead of it on my TBL. So I did. But now here I am to tell you that, in spite of some similarities in the plotline (someone is Out To Get Rook), Tramps and Thieves was every bit as entertaining as Murder and Mayhem; Dante and Rook are every bit as engaging as they were before and Greg Tremblay’s narration is every bit as awesome.
At the end of Murder and Mayhem, L.A. detective Dante Montoya and Rook Stevens, the ex-thief who’d haunted Dante’s thoughts for years, were an established couple – although it was clear that things weren’t going to be plain sailing for the rather mis-matched duo. Falling in love with someone who spent most of his life on the wrong side of the law is something Dante never expected, and loving the acerbic, vulnerable and complicated Rook has turned his life upside down. But in a good way.
Rook isn’t just surprised he’s fallen for a cop, he’s surprised he’s fallen for anybody. He’s never been one to put down roots and he’s a loner; abandoned by his mother as a child, he’s learned never to rely on anyone or let anyone get too close. He’s never had a relationship and never had close friends – until now – but while he sometimes finds the fact of being in love rather overwhelming (and, frankly, terrifying!) Rook is certain of one thing – he loves Dante enough to want to make things work between them.
Buuuuuut… the lure of one last job, that thrill of sneaking in, making the grab and getting out again… Rook has been on the straight and narrow for some time, but he can’t deny he misses certain aspects of his old life. When he’s offered the chance to steal back something that rightfully belongs to him, he can’t pass it up, especially as he’ll be “liberating” the item from his arsehole of a cousin, Harold Martin, who double-crossed him in order to obtain it. However, nothing is simple, and when Rook breaks into his cousin’s apartment, it’s to find Harold lying on the floor in a pool of blood, dead as a doornail with the broken statue of a falcon (a replica of the one used in the Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon) lying on his chest. Horrified and sick to the stomach, Rook is on the verge of getting the hell outta Dodge when he’s attacked by someone wearing a mask who makes a run for it just before the cops arrive.
Naturally, the old-skool detective assigned to the investigation is determined to prove Rook guilty of murder, in spite of Rook’s insistence that Harold had to have been dead long before he got there. Even divulging that Harold’s wife had chosen to help Rook retrieve his property by giving him the alarm codes for the apartment doesn’t change anything; to his mind, once a criminal, always a criminal, and the fact that Rook’s boyfriend is a cop just means that Rook has got himself a clever smoke screen to hide behind.
As this is a mystery I won’t go into plot details, other than to say that it’s well-constructed with plenty of twists and turns, and I didn’t work out who the bad guy was until shortly before Dante and Rook did – so that’s all good. But – and I said this about Murder and Mayhem – what makes this such a compelling listen are the characters the author has created and the relationships she is developing between them. The chemistry between Rook and Dante is scorching and they share some nicely steamy love scenes, but Ms. Ford also imbues the sexytimes with a real sense of the deep emotional connection they share and of the tenderness and affection that lie between them. They’re total opposites in many ways, and yet together, they just click. Rook is complicated and messed up; he’s smart-mouthed, devious and clever and is still struggling with that instinct to run which kicks in whenever he’s cornered, whether physically or emotionally. If he’s certain of anything, it’s that Dante loves him and that he wants to be with him, but it’s hard to set aside the conditioning of a lifetime that prods at his insecurities and tells him he’s not good enough – not just for a guy like Dante, but for anything or anyone.
I was also delighted to meet Rook’s cantankerous grandfather Archie again, and to hear progress in their rather awkward relationship. There’s a scene between them in the second half (which I won’t spoil) which is incredibly poignant and wonderfully cathartic; in the previous book, there was a sense that in spite of their many similarities of character, Archie didn’t quite know what to make of Rook, or how to handle him. That’s still the case to an extent, but the affection between them is starting to become apparent and we know that no matter how far they frustrate or annoy each other, there’s an unbreakable connection between them.
I think this is the third performance by Greg Tremblay I’ve reviewed, and I’m already running out of superlatives to describe his work because He’s Just That Good. He’s my latest narrator glom, and given his fairly extensive back catalogue, I’ve got quite a lot of excellent listens in my future! In Tramps and Thieves – as was the case in Murder and Mayhem – his pacing and comic timing are spot on, the characters are all expertly realised and clearly differentiated, his female voices are very good and he picks up on all the right emotional cues. The vocal characterisations of the recurring characters (Hank, Manny, Archie, etc.) are consistent with those in the previous book and he once again does a tremendous job in getting under the skin and into the heads of the two principals, expertly conveying Rook’s prickly vulnerability and stubbornness and Dante’s quiet strength. (That whole softly accented, velvety-melted-chocolate-thing he’s got going on to portray Dante is one of the best things about a truly excellent performance, and I admit that each time Dante called Rook “cuervo”, my knees may have weakened a little.)
As is obvious, Tramps and Thieves is another winner, and is an audiobook I’m recommending highly to fans of romantic suspense or mysteries. The plot is intriguing, the characters are complex and engaging, the dialogue sparkles and the romance is just the right amount of tender, sexy and adorable. Greg Tremblay acts his socks off yet again, and my only overall complaint is that book three isn’t out yet!
TITLE: Tramps and Thieves
AUTHOR: Rhys Ford
NARRATED BY: Greg Tremblay
GENRE: Romantic Suspense
STEAM FACTOR: 5
REVIEWER: CazBuy Tramps and Thieves by Rhys Ford on Amazon