Title: The Year of the Rat (Dom Reilly Mysteries #1)
Author: Marshall Thornton
Publisher: Kenmore Books
Release Date: May 28, 2021
Genre(s): M/M Historical, Crime Procedural
Page Count: 231
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5 - ALL THE STARS
In reading Michael Doris' book "A Yellow Raft in Bue Water," which follows the story of three generations of Native American women, we get the story of the daughter first, followed by the mother and then the grandmother. At the end, we finally learn what created the family dynamic and how actions by each woman were precipitated by the past. For me personally, reading that book was gut-wrenching and really transformational.
In much the same way, "Year of the Rat" starts out as a mid-1990's investigative murder case where 40ish Dom Reilly - part-time bartender and owner of a few properties with his 16-years younger lover, Ronnie, a real estate agent - is drawn into an Innocence Project-like case to exonerate a young man in prison for murder. Dom reluctantly agrees to investigate, despite claiming that he has no experience, but it's pretty clear from the start that Dom basically hits the ground running.
"Why are all the good ones always gay?" She sighed, almost under her breath. I stopped and looked back at her, "Sorry to disappoint, but I'm not one of the good ones."The book is from Dom's POV and we see how brutally honest he is with himself - his faults, his self-awareness, his efforts to be honest with Ronnie (as much as he can). Yet, his entire background is a lie. "I've been lying about myself for a long time. It's become a habit. Or maybe an addiction."
As Dom doggedly works the case, we also get glimpses into his life with Ronnie. Ronnie's mother is a Piece.of.Work yet Dom cuts her a lot of slack and admires her stubbornness. Or as he says "She's not awful; she just does awful things." He's like a man who has been given a final chance of a relationship and is trying not to mess it up.
As the investigation deepens, Dom talks with Peggy McCallister from the Happy Acres Mobile Estate. That probably should have been a clue that "Year of the Rat" exists in the Marshall Thornton universe, since Peggy and the Happy Acres feature prominently in "Death Comes to Happy Acres" by Thornton, writing as JT Moon.
But let's just say that when we next learn of an additional connection to the Marshall Thornton universe, it was a moment like reading "A Yellow Raft in Blue Water" when you unearth the final clues, and everything pinpoints into clear focus and my gawd, the Revelation hit me like a tremor. Why Dom more than tolerated Ronnie's mother, why he is drawn to investigating a case to make sure justice is done, why he lies to the world about himself. It transforms the events of the entire book.
5+ stars for "Year of the Rat", and we can only hope that Marshall Thornton gives this series as many wonderful books as his stellar Boystown series.