"Rhys Ford is sure to make a scene with MURDER AND MAYHEM."
Reviewed by Annie Tegelan
Posted June 2, 2015
Gay / Lesbian Mystery | Gay / Lesbian Romance
In a brand new series by Rhys Ford, MURDER AND MAYHEM
former cat burglar Rook Stevens and Detective Dante
Montoya who find
themselves meeting again after Rook is found standing over
a dead woman's
body. Despite being in this stressful predicament of a
murder charge, there
are other things more important to Rook, such as the fact
that he is one
again face to face with Dante.
Rhys Ford certainly has the plot down in this story. Rife
with twists and
turns, this book has plenty to keep reading engaged and
I found that the beginning lagged a little bit in terms of
pacing. Ford tends to
like paying attention to detail, which is a very good
thing in certain scenes
but I found that they got in the way, especially when the
heroes haven't met
yet and you want to establish that connect and set up the
story first. I feel
like the details about Dante's job and the certain
procedures associated with
that could have been explained later on once the story was
fully set up and
readers got an idea of what the tone of the story will be.
That being said though, I still very much enjoy Ford's
writing. She tends to
give her characters very interesting quirks that gives
them more personality
and makes them endearing. The romance between Rook and
Dante starts off
as strained but it does become something more friendly
later on. It's nice to
see a natural, organic progression amidst all the action
and suspense that
Ford throws in. In this promising start to the series,
Rhys Ford is sure to
make a scene with MURDER AND MAYHEM.
Dead women tell no tales.
Former cat burglar Rook Stevens stole many a priceless
in the past, but he’s never been accused of taking a life
until now. It was one thing to find a former associate
Potter’s Field, his pop culture memorabilia shop, but
another to stumble across her dead body.
Detective Dante Montoya thought he’d never see Rook
again—not after his former partner falsified evidence to
entrap the jewelry thief and Stevens walked off scot-
when he tackled a fleeing murder suspect, Dante was
discover the blood-covered man was none other than the
he’d fought to put in prison and who still makes his
Rook is determined to shake loose the murder charge
him, even if it means putting distance between him and
rugged Cuban-Mexican detective who brought him down. If
dead con artist wasn’t bad enough, others soon follow,
the bodies pile up around Rook’s feet, he's forced to
out to the last man he’d expect to believe in his
and the only man who’s ever gotten under Rook’s skin.
ALL ROOK could smell was blood.
Hot. Metallic. Dirty. Blood.
It stung his senses, an angry hornets’ nest of odors he
couldn’t outrun—even as he pounded down one of
Hollywood’s tight back alleys. Rook could hear shouting,
piercing rushes of sound caught in the maze of brick,
glass, and cement behind him.
A sun-faded aluminum can crinkled when he stepped on it.
Folding up over the edge of his high-top, it clung to his
foot for a stride before gravity dislodged it. Nearly
tripping over his own feet, Rook stumbled, then caught
himself with a grab at a rolling trash can, tipping the
enormous black receptacle to the ground. Garbage poured
out of the heavy bin, foul, sticky liquids gushing out
from its depths, and as Rook jigged around the stream, he
was very aware of the sounds of footsteps closing in on
He’d be damned if he let them catch him.
The river of garbage he could outrun. The blood was
something else. It coated his hands and then his pants
when he tried to wipe them clean. The bottom of his shoes
were probably clotted thick with it from walking through
the dark pool he’d found on his store’s main floor,
driving the drying, viscous fluid deep into the grooves
of his faded black Chucks.
A groaning drew him deeper into the store then. He wasn’t
sure where it’d come from, but Rook would swear on a pack
of Bibles signed by God himself, he heard it. It was a
rattling sigh that made him pause and look again. His
curiosity would be the death of him, Hawkins once told
Which was absolutely, ridiculously true, because when he
came around the corner of the display case filled with
horror flick memorabilia, he stepped directly on a dead
And his curiosity laughed its fool head off as it dumped
him into another mess of trouble.
He didn’t need any more light than the faint glow of
emergency LEDs built into the bottom of the cases to see
she was dead. It was as obvious as the life-sized
Chewbacca statue standing a few feet away from where she
lay splayed out. No one could survive what he’d seen.
There’d been nothing left of her stomach and chest.
Washed over silver from the curacao blue LEDs, her flesh
lay in chunks across the floor, a profane slaughter of
skin and meat leaving her insides spilling out in ribbons
of dank meat and ichor.
There was a flicker of recognition in the small part of
Rook’s brain that still worked, a sensory overload hot
enough to crackle his nerves. He knew the woman—had
argued with her, bitched about how she’d cheated him and,
worse, cursed her to hell when she’d run off with one of
the largest takes he’d ever brought in.
Her doll-like face was cracked open and bruised, the
enormous cornflower-blue eyes she used to gull easy marks
flat and blank, staring up at the store’s high ceiling.
She lay on her side, her arms awkwardly thrust out in
front of her. Her legs were spread apart and bent at the
knee, forcing her tight skirt up nearly to her hips. He’d
reached out to tug at her skirt hem, not thinking about
anything other than giving her some dignity in death, and
drew his hand back when he felt a wetness spread over his
palm. Something in her torn-apart corpse must have
collapsed, because Dani’s body tumbled forward, and Rook
made a grab for her, as if catching Dani would save her
from further pain.
That was how he was found, arms full of dead woman and
skin painted with her still warm blood.
A hot, burning glow flooded the store, and Rook pulled
back, startled enough to drop Dani to the floor with a
wet splat. He didn’t have time to take a breath before
the front windows exploded and silhouettes poured in, too
many to count in the blur of panic and fright.
He did see the guns, though. And felt the whisper of a
bullet shear past his exposed cheek.
The collectibles shop was a warren of display cases and
back rooms, as familiar to Rook as the back of his hand
or the tumbling sound of an old safe’s lock giving way to
his skilled fingers. Potter’s Field’s back-room labyrinth
was too dark. There should have been more lights—blinking
LEDs from a high-end R2-D2 and an array of old bulb
signage he’d scored from a movie set auction. If
anything, he should have been able to see enough of the
room from the soft glowing cold boxes bought to keep
delicate collectibles in. Instead of the slightly pink
suit worn in an old Charlie Chan movie or the sequined
dress flashing bright colors and spangles from their
sealed tight cases, Rook was met with a bank of black
with only a thin orangey thread of light to see by.
He didn’t need a lot of light to lead him to the sliding
metal door at the side of the building, but he certainly
was going to have a good talk with Charlene, his
assistant, about leaving the padlock off the inside latch
when she snuck out to have a quick smoke.
If he survived getting shot at.
Hell, if he survived running through Los Angeles covered
in blood while a pack of gunmen hunted him, Char was
probably going to get a raise for being so bubbleheaded,
because he hit the automatic release bar on the door and
was outside before another bullet tried to make its way
into his head.
His legs were burning. Years of sliding through tight
spaces kept him limber, and he’d worked to keep flexible.
Which, Rook discovered as a cramp bloomed across his
ribs, did shit for stamina. He’d been stupid—complacent,
really. Stupid to think he’d gone straight so could give
up old ingrained habits like intimately knowing his
surroundings and moving about.
It was costing him dearly now.
Hollywood was built building upon building, tight,
cramped spaces behind broad fronts facing the street, a
set design for the masses, constructed on a grand scale.
Pockets of asphalt parking lots were scattered about,
giving Rook a clear path to sprint through if he wanted.
He knew better. Wide-open spaces were the easiest way to
get caught. Subterfuge and shadows were his only hope in
the never-quite-darkness of a late Hollywood evening. The
sky shimmered with yellow splashes of light caught in the
low cloud cover of an early fall. The alleys were dodgy,
twists and turns speckled with debris, both garbage and
throwaway people clinging to back doorways hoping their
fragile shelter would hold up against the occasional
A dash of Chinese spice in the air gave Rook some idea of
where he’d gotten to. Only a block and a half from where
he’d started. The city’s grime was thick in its bowels,
stains of dirt and fallen smog leaving behind long
mottled streaks nearly impervious to Los Angeles’s
drifting rains. In some cases, the buildings themselves
were nestled in too tight to allow even a hint of fresh
breeze between them, and Rook choked on a pocket of
stagnant air trapped behind a run-down side street head
shop, a cloud of patchouli and stale pot smoke drifting
in the heat of a never-ending coil.
Behind Hollywood’s streets, a different city thrived, a
far cry from the glamour and glitz. Not the one sold on
television and movies as a glistening, golden-bodied
beauty with suntan-oiled skin and orange-kissed breath.
The tightly packed town nestled into Beverly Hills’s
armpit had absolutely nothing in common with that
Hollywood. If anything, that golden image was simply his
town’s too thickly spackled on makeup, weathered and
cracked from the heat, and if anyone looked too closely,
they could see the aging has-been beneath the pancake
foundation and sparkling fake eyelashes.
After years spent on the carnival circuit, he’d always
loved returning to Hollywood’s streets under the hills,
packed with expensive apartments with their wide-open
windows and the frivolous wealth of every flash-in-the-
pan wannabe whose face sparked up a screen for a brief
instant, then faded back into the chorus along with the
rest of the trash.
He’d fought hard to rise above being trash. If he hadn’t
been running for his life, Rook would have laughed at how
easy it was to fall from grace in a split second—
especially when covered in the blood of a woman he’d
wished dead for years.
Twisting to the left, he nearly toppled over a grizzled
old black man pulling mannequin parts out of a battered
shopping cart. Reeling from the hit, Rook sidestepped the
gnarled fingers reaching for him, the man’s face mottled
dark with anger.
“Watch where yer goin’, boy,” he spat at Rook, a wave of
foul breath washing over him, strong enough to briefly
drown the stench of blood and offal out of Rook’s
“Sorry,” Rook muttered, squeezing past him. He didn’t get
more than a step when he felt the old man grab at his
head, twisting his fingers into Rook’s shaggy hair. The
pain was sudden, sharp, and hard. He lurched back,
surprised at the skinny man’s strength. “Let go… I’ve got
“That blood I smell?” The man’s voice boomed, a grenade
of sound echoing through the zigzag of crossing alleys.
“You kill someone? Shit! Police!”
Rook spun about, tilting sideways when the man tightened
his grip. The shouts were getting louder, indistinct
cries directing the men to their prey. Panic seized
Rook’s belly, and he struck out, slamming his knee up
into the hollow between the old man’s legs. An instant
later, Rook was free and he was off, determined to shake
the shadows off his trail. He broke from the maze,
grabbing at fresh air and a straight run to safety.
Then one of the shadows lunged out from the darkness
pooled at the edges of a cluttered sidewalk and took Rook
The shape grew large and came too fast for Rook to avoid.
He got a glimpse of jeans, a white shirt, and a suit
jacket, flashes of color across his vision before the
massive block of muscle and sinew hit him hard enough to
pull both of them down to the gritty broken sidewalk.
Rook tucked in on himself, rolling into the blow to
protect his chest and belly. Years of hardscrabble
fighting and honed instincts took over, and he lashed
out, shoving stiff fingers into his attacker’s throat.
Rook heard a gagging sound—loud enough to give him hope
the man would let him go, but the sidewalk had other
A break in the concrete caught Rook’s shoulder, and it
broke his momentum, jerking him to a stop. His sneakers
squeaked against a wall plastered with placards and
graffiti, but he couldn’t get enough traction to get to
his feet. Caught with his back to his attacker, Rook
scrambled to get a hold on the sidewalk as he untangled
his legs, but the man was on him, pressing Rook down with
a fierce shove. His head snapped forward, and Rook saw
stars when his skull made contact with the ground under
him. As he blinked away the sharp crack of pain, Rook’s
stomach sank down deep into his trembling guts.
It wasn’t the man’s gun that gave him pause. Nor the gold
badge he wore at his belt. A gun and badge clearly
exposed as the dark-haired giant’s jacket pulled up when
he reached for a pair of zip ties from a leather pouch
near his back pocket.
“F**k, a cop,” Rook swore through the wavy sparkles
flickering across his eyes. “Oh… shit.”
He knew the Hispanic cop straddling him. He’d felt those
large strong arms on him before, and even as he heard the
click of a plastic zip tie being looped shut around his
wrist, he recalled the last time he’d seen the handsome,
stone-faced man, and his cock grew hard with the memory.
Dark, changeable light brown eyes with almost
ridiculously long lashes scanned Rook’s face, and Rook
caught the exact moment when the cop recognized him, just
seconds after Rook realized who’d pinned him spread eagle
to the ground.
This wasn’t just any cop.
But the one cop in Los Angeles who wanted him dead.
And the one and only cop he’d ever let touch him.
“F**KING ROOK Stevens,” Detective Dante Montoya growled
at the one-way glass looking into a small gray
interrogation room off of the station’s bullpen.
His hands smarted, rubbed raw from the scrapes he’d taken
when taking Stevens down, and his throat ached where the
supposedly former thief’d jabbed his fingers into Dante’s
Adam’s apple, but the minor discomforts were just that—
minor. He’d finally gotten a hold of f**king Rook
Stevens, and from the looks of things, Stevens wasn’t
going to be able to wiggle his way free like he’d done in
The man was a boneless sprawl of insouciance in one of
the interview room’s hard metal and vinyl chairs, his
long legs stretched out in front of him and one arm
looped over the chair’s back. From Stevens’s casual
demeanor, no one would believe he was facing a murder
charge, but small things betrayed him. His mismatched
stare glanced at the door every few seconds before
settling back to stare at the mirrored wall, and there
was a slight tightening around Stevens’s full mouth every
time a shadow passed under the door.
Problem was, Rook Stevens was still as handsome as
f**king hell, and Dante longed to smack the man’s
smugness off his face with a well-aimed fist.
If anything, the police-issued set of gray scrubs should
have taken away a bit of his attractiveness, but the drab
fabric only drew out the paleness of his skin and the
startling blue and green-hazel oddity of his eyes. The
room’s bright overhead lights highlighted Stevens’s high
cheekbones and strong jaw, his nearly elfish features
hiding the cunning intelligence Dante knew lurked behind
his seemingly wide-eyed expression. Stevens’s caramel-
brown hair was longer than the last time Dante’d seen
him, certainly longer than the recon photos from the
disastrous case that ended his prior partner’s career and
set Dante’s more than a few steps back.
Almost five years. Five long years since Dante was forced
to close the case file he’d built up on Stevens and the
other members of the carnie crew suspected of running a
burglary ring up and down the West Coast. His old
partner, Vince, had taken the case harder, more
personally than Dante, and that’d been his downfall. By
the time their two-year investigation went down in
flames, Vince was tired of being a cop, tired of chasing
criminals, and certainly sick to death of banging his
head against the solid wall of lies and subterfuge spun
by Rook Stevens and his partners.
“I’m too old for this shit,” Vince had muttered when
they’d gotten word Stevens walked free of all charges
they’d brought against him. “I’m spending my life trying
to nail some damned uneducated smartass who hawks
sideshow games for a f**king living. Asshole knew we had
him dead to rights, and all we had to do was find out
where he fenced that damned last haul of his.”
They hadn’t found Stevens’s fence or anyone who’d even
admit to doing business with Stevens to launder the high-
end goods from the mansions he’d hit when the carnival
wintered in Los Angeles. None of the carnies would spill
a single word from their close-lipped mouths whenever
Vince and Dante came around, and if anything, the victims
themselves wanted the cases swept under the rug when the
detectives began to poke a little too deeply for their
Then Vince did the unthinkable. He’d crossed the line
between good and bad, planting evidence so flimsy it
unraveled before the accusations against Stevens could
even take hold, and Vince’d almost brought Dante down
He’d liked Vince. The older detective’d taken a slightly
angry, gay, Cuban-Mexican baby detective under his wing
and poured everything he knew about catching criminals
into Dante’s eager brain. In the end, Vince’s career
ended in a sour mess, and Dante skirted the edge of
demotion when they’d been accused of taking bribes to let
the crew slip out from between their fingers. Vince tried
to talk Dante out of telling their captain about Dante’s
encounter with Stevens in a dark Hollywood club, and even
then, Dante kept the details sketchy, admitting he only
realized he’d almost f**ked Stevens when someone
accidentally turned on the bathhouse’s floodlights and
bleached the back rooms in a harsh white glow.
It was the last time Dante went to a club to get his
needs met. It was also the first time he’d seen Stevens’s
sexy, nearly apologetic smile.
The asshole still got the tickle going in Dante’s belly,
and damned if he didn’t want to dig his hands into
Stevens’s hair, strip him down, and f**k him until he
“So you finally got your white whale, huh, Moby?” Hank
Camden, his partner of three years, wandered into the
side room, a bone-white tangle of clumsy limbs topped off
with a shock of red hair bright enough to set off a fire
“Moby Dick was the whale, puto,” Dante replied, picking
up the paper cup of sour cop house coffee he’d poured
himself before coming into the viewing cubby. “And we
haven’t harpooned him yet. What’s the lab say? Anything
come back yet?”
“No, nothing. But shit, he was practically coated from
head to toe. If there’s no gunpowder residue it’s because
he washed it off in her damned blood.” Hank saluted Dante
with his own cup, a tea bag tag dangling from a string
over its rim. “Huh, he doesn’t look old enough to be a
“He’s old enough.” Dante grunted. “Pisses me off I can’t
be in there. I’ve waited a hell of a long time to take
Stevens down. Who’s taking the case? O’Byrne? She’s the
only one I can think of who could go toe-to-toe with
“Just because you made the collar doesn’t mean it’s our
case. ’Sides, Captain knows you’ve got a history with the
guy. You and me are on door-knocking and story-taking
duty until he says—”
“Montoya. Camden.” The man in question, a thick-chested
walrus of a cop, thrust his head into the cubby. Captain
Book, a veteran of LA’s long, tenuous relationship with
the law, pointed at the interrogation room and LAPD’s
latest acquisition. “Everyone’s caseload is backed up to
hell and gone. You’re all I’ve got open, so get in there
and crack him. Do it clean. Do it fast. Shut him down
“Yes, sir.” Dante suppressed a grin as he tossed his cup
into the trash. “Thanks, Captain.”
“Don’t f**k this up, Montoya. Get in. Get what we need,
and keep it professional.” Book stabbed at the air near
Dante’s chest with a thick finger, his severe frown thick
with warning. “Camden, you watch your step. Don’t give
the DA any damned wiggle room to let this bastard out.
Son of a bitch lawyer is rubber-stamping shit left and
right. Make something stick here.”
Dante waited until the captain was gone before he let his
smile slip free. Jerking his head toward the mirror, he
patted Hank on the shoulder and grinned widely. “Come on,
man, let’s go see what Stevens has to say about all that
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