Author ~ Kate McMurray
Publisher ~ Penguin Random House
Published ~ 29th March 2016
Genre ~ Historical M/M Romance
From the Lower East Side to uptown Manhattan, a curious detective searches for clues on the sidewalks of New York—and finds a secret world of forbidden love that’s too hot to handle…
New York City, 1896. As the temperatures rise, so does the crime rate. At the peak of this sizzling heat wave, police inspector Hank Brandt is called to investigate the scandalous murder of a male prostitute. His colleagues think he should drop the case, but Hank’s interest is piqued, especially when he meets the intriguing key witness: a beautiful female impersonator named Nicholas Sharp.
As a nightclub performer living on the fringes of society, Nicky is reluctant to place his trust in a cop—even one as handsome as Hank. With Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt cracking down on vice in the city, Nicky’s afraid that getting involved could end his career. But when he realizes his life is in danger—and Hank is his strongest ally—the two men hit the streets together to solve the crime. From the tawdry tenements of the Lower East Side to the moneyed mansions of Fifth Avenue, Nicky and Hank are determined to uncover the truth. But when things start heating up between them, it’s not just their lives on the line. It’s their love…
I dearly love detective stories, both ancient and modern, but I have to admit to a preference for the old school coppers who don’t have the wonders of modern technology to recognise faces, analyse DNA or call back up at the flick of the screen on a cell phone.
A reading of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist had given me an interest in how Theodore Roosevelt used his position on the New York Police Commission to try and clean up the city so I was delighted to see a m/m take on the story. This is a particularly fun one too where the bald facts of history are used to increase depth and tension in a very touching romance.
The temperature rises in Manhattan as a heat wave of unprecedented virulence sweeps over the city. Tempers are rising too and detective Hank Brandt isn’t particularly surprised to be called out to investigate a murder at Club Bulgaria, the name signifying that it is a bar used for assignations between rent boys and their patrons. He is surprised when one of the witnesses turns out to be Nicholas Sharp, the prettiest female impersonator he’s ever seen. But there’s a lot more to Nicky than a pretty face and as the death toll mounts, Hank and Nicky, along with friends and colleagues on both sides of the law, are trying to catch a vicious serial killer.
I enjoyed hard boiled Hank – though everyone was pretty much boiling in their own sweat on these horrendous and heat-filled days – but Nicky was the true joy for me. He had a strong spine under the somewhat frou-frou exterior, and a heart of gold. The details of the plight of the ordinary people, the few steps taken by the authorities to prevent the old and young expiring from the heat, the stench of streets filled with dead horses were all described with just enough detail to turn the stomach without detaching from the enjoyment of the story. There were times when the style was a little flowery but I felt that was appropriate to the time and place. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the resilience of Nicky and his friends as men who knew they would get short shrift from the law but were determined to live life on their own terms wherever possible. In addition to the romance between Hank and Nicky, there is a bonus love story between two of the secondary characters that is another delight. Theodore Roosevelt makes an appearance, as do some other celebrities of the time, but really the book is about the murders, their investigation and the satisfying yet rather chilling solution.
I really enjoyed this and read it more or less at a sitting. Great fun.