Release Day Review: Dirty Heart (Cole McGinnis #6) by Rhys Ford

Final book in the Dirty Series arc.

Former LAPD detective Cole McGinnis’s life nearly ended the day his police partner and best friend Ben Pirelli emptied his service weapon into Cole and his then-lover, Rick. Since Ben turned his gun on himself, Cole thought he’d never find out why Ben tried to destroy him.

Years later, Cole has stitched himself back together. Now a private investigator and in love with Jae-Min Kim, a Korean-American photographer he met on a previous case, Cole’s life is back on track—until he discovers Jeff Rollins, a disgraced cop and his first partner, has resurfaced and appears to be working on the wrong side of the law.

As much as Cole’s fought to put the past behind him, he’s soon tangled up in a web of lies, violence, and death. Jeff Rollins is not only trying to kill Cole’s loved ones, he is also scraping open old wounds and long-forgotten memories of the two men Cole loved and lost. Cole is sure Rollins knows why Ben ruined all their lives, but he isn’t looking for answers. Now Cole is caught in a cat-and-mouse game with a cold-blooded killer with the key to not only his past but his future.

Warning!  Long review is long!

Long, long ago, back in Ye Olden Tymes (ok, more like 2013) when I was but a wee unicorn, upon the advice of the beautiful Piper Vaughn I decided to crash GRL in Atlanta.  I was nervous and timid and really out of my comfort zone because I was going to meet some of my favorite authors. To be honest, I was a bit starstruck.  Oh, I put on a brave face when, really, I was trembling inside.  What if I did something stupid like trip over my own two feet or drooled or spit when I talked?  What if no one talked to me?  What if no one liked me?

But guess what happened when I got there.  Almost immediately after I walked into the lobby of the hotel I was met by Piper, who was hanging out at the time with Rhys.  Rhys brought me into the fold and made me feel welcome.  We talked a bit and she put me on her mailing list.  Rhys is a warm, kind and thoughtful person who put me at ease with her humor and really set the tone for one of the most wonderful days I’d had in a long time. 

Rhys, Piper & Me looking gorgeous as always
And this thoughtfulness, warmth and humor translates into the stories she writes.

I first met Cole and Jae two years ago when I was asked to review Dirty Deeds, book 4 in the Cole McGinnis series.  Seeing as how I hadn’t even read book 1, Rhys generously offered the entire series up to then for me to read.  I was a bit reluctant to get into the series because, really, I don’t like mysteries.  I always figure out whodunit early into the story and it detracts from my enjoyment.  Well, guess what.  I didn’t know whodunit!  In fact, I was stumped by each and every one of the books in the series, never guessing who the culprit was until they were revealed.  To say that this quickly became one of my most favorite series of all time is a severe understatement.

To be honest, I’ve been a little scared to read this.  I’ve had the ARC since January but I kept putting it off because what if I didn’t like it?  What if it didn’t live up to my expectations?  To have a series that I hold so close to my heart disappoint me in the end was a bit daunting.  But of course, of course I loved this.  I have loved every book that Rhys has ever written so I’m ashamed that I had any reservations about this one.  I’m sorry, Rhys, for ever doubting you.

Each one of these books starts out with shenanigans.  Whether it’s a gun-toting grandma in a leather bikini, a daring dog rescue for a little girl with anime eyes and a unicorn toy for payment or even clowns and llama shit, Cole can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  It’s like he’s a magnet for the absurd.  But don’t worry, this is balanced out by the meat of the story where we get to ride along with Cole on his adventures.  

Throughout the series we’ve witnessed one overall story arc:  Why did Cole’s best friend and partner on the force, Ben shoot him and his then lover Rick, murdering him and then kill himself?  What was it all for?  What the hell happened?  It was a senseless murder-suicide that came out of nowhere, the consequences of which Cole has been carrying around ever since.  Even years later he hasn’t been able to put it behind him and move on with his life because he needed to know what.  The fuck.  Happened.

Jae coming into his life has helped him heal somewhat but he’s never been able to get over it enough to live an emotionally healthy life.  He’s still stuck on stupid a lot of the times, rushing headlong into danger and sometimes forgetting he has someone to live for again.  But here’s the thing about Cole.  He’s fierce in his love, not only for Jae but for his brother Mike, his best friend Bobby, his pseudo-mom Claudia and anyone else he considers ‘family’.  The man may not be able to dress himself in colors that coordinate but if he thinks you’re in danger he will protect you with everything he has, even if it is to his own detriment.  I think that has a lot to do with all the survivors guilt that he can’t seem to let go of, though throughout the series we see him becoming stronger and more confident in himself.  

Thankfully, in this last book of the series, we finally learn why Ben did what he did all those years ago.  And let me tell you I did not see that coming.  Rhys has stumped me again!  That wasn’t even on my radar!  And no, I’m not going to tell you why.  Read the book!  Better yet, pick up Dirty Kiss, book one of the series.  Seriously, you can’t go wrong with this series.  Rhys Ford is a phenomenal writer, with words so descriptive I can see and hear and smell and even taste everything that goes on within the pages.  Her words have the ability to suck you in and not let go until you’ve finished, then leave you with the worst of book hangovers.  It always takes me a while to pull myself back out of whatever world she’s created after I’ve finished one of her stories.  And she writes some of the most amazing characters I have ever read.  Everyone, even the secondary and tertiary characters are fully fleshed out and have their own unique voice.  She has made me fall in love with these figments of her imagination and to think of them as real people.

How do I go about telling you what Cole and Jae and Bobby and Ichi and Mike and Maddy and Claudia mean to me?  Where do I begin?  How can I encompass all of the feelings of love and laughter and companionship and frustration and annoyance and friendship into a few short words?  Well, I guess it all boils down to one thing.  Family.  This feels like my family.  I feel a part of this fictitious world.  Every one of the characters in this series are special to me.   I’m so sad to see them go but this couldn’t have been a more perfect ending for them.  

Saranghae-yo Cole.  Saranghae-yo Jae-Min.  I will miss you all and I hope to hear from you again in the future. 

Dreamspinner Press

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