Title: Raman Assassin (Book 1)
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Genre(s): Crime Fiction
Page Count: 216
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
When life gives Kuro Jenkins lemons, he wants to make ponzu to serve at his Los Angeles ramen shop.
Instead he’s dodging bullets and wondering how the hell he ended up back in the Black Ops lifestyle he left behind him. After rescuing former child star Trey Bishop from a pair of thugs in the middle of the night, he knows it’s time to pick up his gun again. But it seems trouble isn’t done with Trey, and Kuro can’t quite let go… of either the gun or Trey Bishop.
Trey Bishop never denied his life’s downward spiral was his own fault. After a few stints in rehab, he’s finally shaken off his Hollywood bad-boy lifestyle but not his reputation. The destruction of his acting career and his relationships goes deep, and no one trusts anything he says, including the LAPD. When two men dragging a dead body spot him on a late-night run and try to murder him, Trey is grateful for the tall, dark, and deadly ramen shop owner he lusts over—not just for rescuing him, but also for believing him.
Now caught in a web of murders and lies, Trey knows someone wants him dead, and the only one on his side is a man with deep, dark secrets. Trey hopes Kuro Jenkins will stick around to see what the future holds for them once the dust settles, but from the looks of things, neither of them may survive to find out.
Trey Bishop comes from a rich but dysfunctional family. Pushed by an over-ambitious mother into a TV-show career when he was 8, he has become a drug-addicted and jobless Hollywood bad-boy and, after an umpteenth stay in rehab, is currently struggling to sort out his life, all the while trying to steer clear of his egocentric family. What he does whenever he feels the mad craving for drugs pulsing in his veins is to go for a run, whatever the time of day (or night). That’s how, one night, he stumbles upon a couple of suspect guys moving a heavy package around a dark back-alley in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. As he stares at them, they let the bundle fall… and a strangely familiar-looking corpse grins at Trey. He tries to flee, but the men run after him and try to shoot him. He’s rescued by Kuro Jenkins, the handsome Asian owner of the ramen shop where Trey likes to eat out from time to time, who shows up just in time, gun in hand, and chases the bad guys off.
What Trey doesn’t know is that Kuro has a shady past. After having been groomed as a master thug by a major player of the Los Angeles underworld, Kuro has become a Black Ops agent for the government. More than once, he’s been involved in questionable rescue missions, but ever since his cover has been blown during one of those, he has retired despite his young age and has opened his little restaurant, content to do what he always loved to do: cook Asian meals. Never would he have dreamed that the handsome but distant and sad-looking young customer he frequently sees in his shop would turn his newly found quiet life upside-down once again.
Because of course, both of them feel an instant mutual attraction. They’ve been ogling each other for months, but each one having issues to sort out, they haven’t dared make the first move. Now, as it becomes clearer and clearer someone wants to violently prevent Trey from talking about the nightly incident and the body he’s seen, Kuro feels an unexplainable need to protect the tormented young man. To do so means to investigate who’s after Trey and why. Therefore, they spend quite a lot of time together and finally admit to each other that they’re rather rapidly falling in love.
This book was rather a mixed bag for me. The crime plot grabbed my attention at once (nothing beats a thrilling whodunnit, right?), and the main characters were endearing and interesting. I admit the insta-love-thread was a bit too abrupt for my taste, and the careful use of editing “scissors” would have tightened up the story (do we need to know in detail how Kuro’s former boss’s chateau looks like?). Some dialogues felt a bit off, too—hardly anybody really spills out their feelings quite as openly as the two guys did after having known each other for only a couple of days. And of course, if you’re allergic to shootings and killings, you should not pick up this book. I’m not a huge fan of either, yet felt this was fiction, and the more violent scenes were not gratuitous, but rather fit in with the story-line, so it was okay for me. The writing style was sometimes a bit odd, too (another author seemingly loath to use past perfect tense), but when I closed the book, the overall impression was positive. Yep, despite some quibbles, I did like this book. Lovers of crime fiction, this one’s definitely for you.