Michael McCree and Simon Hart continue as partners in the private investigation business. Their newest case puts them on the trail of missing boat engines. Along comes Samuel Dashiell Hammett, a Pinkerton agent, who shares a complicated past with Michael. Hammett has his own case to solve concerning bootleggers, and since he doesn’t know Dun Linden, he recruits Michael and Simon to aid him. But when their cases suddenly collide, all their lives are in danger—as is Michael and Simon’s tenuous relationship.
Thin As Smoke is the fourth book in the Gaslight Mysteries series. While it can be read as a standalone (the cases are all different in each book), the recommended approach is to read these in sequence.
It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of O’Quinn’s writing. She has a way of painting a picture with poetic descriptions that seem like she never uses the same word twice. I can’t help but be in awe of her talent. Her style of writing has a thick sensuous tension running throughout. Even if there’s no sex in a scene, the allusion is ever-present. In part, this is due to Michael and Simon, the heroes of these tales.
O’Quinn’s characterization is deep. Her men have a way of saying a lot by saying little, as the scene between Michael and Sam in the past, during a stakeout, attests. Michael and Simon have distinctly differing personalities. Where Michael is jovial and robust, a rogue in the truest sense, Simon clings to a polite facade, reserved and private. Yet both men are smart and strong, and their connection spans beyond the physical. But that sensual sphere they inhabit is so palpable and visceral it makes my heart beat faster until I’m almost out of breath. Simon holds much of himself secret while Michael wears his heart on his sleeve. Each time the two men come together, so much is left unsaid and undone that it tears my heart out of my chest.
Sam Dashiell Hammett is an intriguing addition to the side characters. In many ways, he is like smoke. Though he’s present almost throughout the book, I felt like I started to get him, and then the understanding slipped through my fingers. At the end, I wasn’t sure if I got a handle on him at all. And yet, his presence is unmistakeable. He might not dominate every scene he’s in, but one can’t forget he’s there. Especially since his past with Michael has an unfortunate habit of jumping to the foreground, in desperate need of a resolution.
Now, what is most notable in this tale is not the presence of Hammett, but the fact that the two cases separate Michael and Simon for a good chunk of the book. And yet it is their forced separation that shows how deep their commitment to each other is. They miss each other, and a profound sense of loss and longing affecting their job performance. It was sensual but in a new way. I’m ambivalent about whether or not that’s a good thing. Perhaps I’m simply being greedy after having spent so much time with these men already and knowing how perfect they are for each other. That’s why the distinct lack of sex scenes, which are some of the best aspects in this series, hit me like a freight train. I missed these sensual scenes because during those moments neither man could pretend to be something else and their truths were self-evident.
A fair warning in advance: In the beginning, there’s quite a bit of jumping between different timelines, the past and the present. It might be confusing to some. I wasn’t entirely sure if this was the best or only way these scenes could have been handled but they did reflect the present attitudes of Michael and Simon at Paddy’s, so I understood why they were handled so. Nonetheless, it’s undoubtedly best to read the book in one sitting to avoid feeling baffled or frustrated.
As far as mysteries go, there’s some delicious searching for clues and interviewing complex characters. Even the suspects and the bad guys have multifaceted portrayals. The puzzle is not exceedingly intricate (I figured it out about halfway through the book), but the manner with which the solution is given was fascinating indeed. This is not a whodunit sort of mystery, but more of a hard-boiled kind of chase in the rain.
A wonderful addition to the Gaslight Mysteries series, I recommend this to all lovers of sensual M/M romances, with a hoot and a thrill in their mystery dimension. Start from the first book, and like me, fall in love with Michael and Simon.