Ramen Assassin – Rhys Ford
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. After rescuing former child star Trey Bishop from a pair of murderous thugs, he reluctantly picks his guns up again. It seems trouble isn’t done with Trey, and Kuro can’t quite let go… of either danger or Trey.
Trey never denied his life’s downward spiral was his own fault. After stints in rehab, he’s finally shaken off his Hollywood bad-boy lifestyle, but not his reputation. The destruction of his career and relationships was epic, and no one trusts anything he says, including the LAPD. When two men dragging a dead body spot him on a late-night run, then try to murder him, Trey is thankful for the tall, dark, and deadly ramen shop owner 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 dark secrets. Trey hopes Kuro 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.
Kurotsuki ‘Kuro’Jenkins whose name literally means black moon (and how cool is that!) tried taking it easy. He really did. As a veteran black ops agent, he had many dangerous missions under his belt. He wanted to do more had he not been seriously injured and was forced to retire. He was doing a good job lying low so far when trouble came running towards him in the form of Trey Bishop, former child star and recovering addict. The former black ops turned ramen chef had to help because he has a soft spot for underdogs. Plus the man was a regular customer.
Harrington ‘Trey’ Bishop III went down the route of most Hollywood child stars. He has done it all and been in and out of rehab for most his life. Now at 28, he’s washed up and lived on his father’s dole-outs. In all fairness to Trey, he was really, sincerely trying to get better. Just that, no one believes him. He routinely jogs anytime he feels the urge to drink or shoot. It was on one of these runs that he met bad luck in the form of two men trying to dispose a dead body in the wee hours of the morning. Lucky for him, a certain ramen shop owner he has a crush on was secretly packing high calibers and saved his ass.
“…you’re my particularly favorite brand of trouble.”
Their mutual attraction had been going on for months. It was the alleyway incident that finally broke the ice. The ramen chef has white knight tendencies and the younger man brought out his protective side. The romance happened over the few days of things going tits up. I didn’t mind the insta-ness of it all. Dead people aside, it was soft and sweet. I was sold.
I appreciated the way Kuro handled Trey’s many issues. He did not try to ‘fix’ him. He could see outright that the former actor was doing his best to deal with his demons. I especially approved of the way he stood up for him when Trey’s sister, Kimber, was putting him down yet again.
I admired Trey’s determination in the face of all the negativity he received especially from his own family. His only friend was his father’s former mistress. He needed an extra boost and Kuro was the guy to give him what he needed. I rooted for Trey all the way. He’s a genuinely nice person who had the misfortune of growing up in Hollywood and picking up many bad habits. It’s not all that bad because some of the moves he learned on sets were used in a creative ways to help him out of sticky situations. Which made things a whole lot of fun.
Bonus that Ramen Assassin contains an interesting lesbian couple. If ever Rhys Ford decide to write FF stories, if she hasn’t yet, Boom Boom and Kimber is a good place to start. I’m super intrigued with how a former Russian spy and an LAPD police lieutenant would make it work.
Kimber is Trey’s older sister by 15 years. She bucked family expectations by becoming a cop. I didn’t like her at first. She hardly gave him the benefit of the doubt and she said many harsh words. But she redeemed herself in the end. Tatiana aka Boom Boom aka Black Widow is Trey’s dad’s bodyguard/right hand woman/former demolitions expert. She and Kuro had a colorful history together. Now she’s on their side. She almost stole the show.
Face claims are in order:
This is my first full-length Rhys Ford novel. I wasn’t disappointed though not entirely blown away either. It fell somewhere between like and love. I enjoyed how she brought all the elements together, from Kuro’s hush-hush past to Trey’s sordid family dramas and how they inter-played nicely with the murder mystery and the romance. Many of the characters were well-fleshed out, even if some were not entirely likable. The latter was more in keeping with a character’s personality and not due to poor writing.
I prefer mysteries where the villain was present most of the time, just not obvious. This gives a more satisfying aha moment but trickier to execute without making it predictable. Still, the mystery was a good one, leaving me guessing until the last 20%. The turn of events made it plausible that the MC finally met the villain face-to-face at the time he did. Though I felt it would be more interesting if he made an early appearance.
Ramen Assassin is very much a story of people struggling to start a new life. It is also an entertaining murder mystery with action scenes this side of OTT and plot twisty enough to keep things exciting. Even if it’s only an HFN, I’m so glad things are finally looking up for Trey. They might not be on my top ten but I’m fully invested on him and Kuro and will follow their next adventures.
Time for that comeback!
Rhys Ford stories here
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love