Dana reviews Closing Ranks (A Flesh Novel book 4) by Ethan Stone. (Published by DSP Publications, October 20, 2015, 244 pages) Exclusive excerpt and giveaway!
A reviewers’ copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Title: Closing Ranks
Series: Flesh Book 4
Author: Ethan Stone
Publisher: DSP Publications
Date: 20 October
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Gay Fiction
Internal Affairs investigator Jeremy Ranklin is looking into corruption within the Reno Police Department when he’s ordered to examine the suspicious death of the Chief of Police. The assignment partners Jeremy with Detective Cristian Flesh. Though they spar at first, Jeremy earns Cristian’s trust, and they work well together.
Deeply closeted, Jeremy fights an attraction to fellow cop Kipp Mosely. The investigation brings Jeremy and Kipp together, but lies and secrets prevent things from going any further. Jeremy will need both Kipp’s and Cristian’s help to discover how deep the corruption runs—and to stay alive when the danger hits close to home.
In Closing Ranks Jeremy Rank is a closeted Internal Affairs inspector with no plans on revealing his sexuality. The following excerpt shows one reason why Rank has made this decision.
I strolled down the alley, stopping at a light-yellow house with green grass and a Labrador in the backyard.
The dog barked until he recognized me. “Hey, Seamus. You keeping my family safe?” I knelt and let him lick my face for a few moments before standing and knocking on the back door.
My sister-in-law opened the door, her long dark hair tied in a bun. “Holy shit, Jeremy. I didn’t know you were coming for a visit.” She hugged me warmly and pulled me inside.
“How are you, Deb?” I kissed her on the cheek and leaned against the counter.
Stirring something on the stove, she said, “Surviving. Things could be worse.”
Her husband, my brother, was in prison, she was a single mother, and she thought things could be worse. Some men marry women just like their mothers, but that wasn’t the case with Warren and Deb. He found a wife extremely different from our cold mother.
Deb smiled. “He’s doing excellent in school. He’s a very social little boy and has a ton of friends.”
“Mom, is the mac and cheese ready?” My nephew came into the kitchen, not looking up from some kind of e-reader in his hands.
Deb snickered at Dustin. “Almost. I hope there’ll be enough for all three of us.”
“Yeah, me… three?” Dustin glanced up and finally saw me. “Uncle Jeremy!”
He ran into my arms, and I held him as we embraced. “I’ve missed you, kiddo.”
“Me too, Unks. I wish you’d visit more often.”
“I know.” I probably would come to Sacramento more frequently if it didn’t mean a visit to my parents. Warren and I had been very close brothers. He’d been one of my best friends, and Dustin reminded me so much of Warren, it was like going back in time.
I visited Warren occasionally, but we had little to say. I hadn’t written him off like our parents apparently had, but it still hurt to see him. It was such a far cry from how I wanted to remember him that it hurt.
Spending time with Dustin helped with the pain of basically losing my brother. He was the only connection I had to happier times in the Ranklin household.
Deb dished up three bowls of mac and cheese, and we sat around the table chatting. Dustin told me all about his teachers and wonderful friends.
“Dominic is my best friend, but Aiden thinks he’s my best friend. I let him think that because I don’t want to hurt his feelings,” Dustin rambled. “I also have a buddy named Greg. I think he’s gay.”
I dropped my spoon and some noodles fell to the floor.
“Don’t worry. I’ll let Seamus in and he can clean up.” Deb tittered.
“Why do you think Greg is gay?” I asked.
Dustin shrugged. “He has a crush on another boy named Robert.”
Yeah, that would do it. At first the idea of a six-year-old boy knowing he was queer seemed off, but then I remembered myself at that age. I’d been drawn to a few male classmates. I just didn’t know what it meant at the time.
“Nobody bullies him for being gay?”
Dustin shook his head. “Not really. There were a couple of older kids who called him names, but other boys told them to knock it off.”
“It’s a different world than when we were growing up,” Deb said. “Things that seemed obviously right and wrong aren’t the same anymore.”
What did she mean by that? I’d considered coming out to her, because it’d be nice to have someone in my family who knew the truth about me. However, even if she was okay with it, she would tell Warren, and I didn’t think he would be so accepting.
“Mom and Dad would say the acceptance was sinful. Hell, Pop would probably think Greg needed to be spanked until he became straight. As if that would help.”
Deb gazed at me for a moment with an unreadable look.
“Mom, can I go watch Jake and the Never Land Pirates?”
“Yes, but rinse your bowl off first, please.”
Dustin did as asked, then disappeared into the other room.
“I don’t like Dustin hanging out with that gay boy,” Deb snapped. “But there isn’t much I can do about it.”
“Why don’t you like Greg?” I hoped it was because he was a troublemaker, not because of his sexuality.
Deb cocked a single brow. “Because he’s queer. I don’t want him making some kind of move on Dustin. And there’s no chance in hell I’d ever let Dustin go to his place.”
“You think homosexuality is contagious?” I asked. “If Dustin hangs out with Greg, he’ll become gay himself?”
“I don’t agree with your dad on much, but on this matter we don’t think too differently. If Dustin told me he liked boys, I’d do whatever it took to change him.”
“Being queer is a choice, Jeremy. You have to know that.” She stood and took our bowls to the sink. “I’d take Dustin to gay therapy if I had to.”
“You mean the therapy that is now illegal in California?”
She rolled her eyes as she sat back down. “I have friends who have connections. If all else failed, I’d send him to military school. That’d teach him how to be a man.”
Yeah, sending a gay kid to school with only boys would do the trick. I loved Deb, but her level of ignorance was astounding. I wasn’t sure how I hadn’t known her feelings on the matter, but I guessed we’d just never discussed it.
Just like with my father, it wasn’t worth wasting my breath, so I dropped the subject.
“How have you been, Jeremy?” she questioned a minute later.
I shrugged. “Work keeps me busy.”
“What about your personal life? Any luck finding someone special?”
“It’ll happen when the time is right.”
She poured two cups of coffee and handed one to me. “Don’t wait too long, Jeremy. You might miss the right woman.”
“How’s Warren?” I asked, hoping she would drop the matter.
Her face clouded over. “It’s difficult for him in there. As soon as other inmates find out he was a cop, they want to come after him.”
“Even in protective segregation?”
She nodded. “He’s in with the less violent offenders, child molesters and drunk drivers. That doesn’t change how he’s treated when they learn what he used to do. Every time the officials want him to room with someone, he has to worry if they’re going to try and shank him.”
“Damn, that sucks,” I said.
“He’s got a decent celly right now. An older man who’s in seg because he’s a well-known author.”
“How often do you get to see him?”
“Not as often as I want. It’s hard to get days off and find someone to watch Dustin. Lord knows your parents won’t help. They act like Warren doesn’t exist.”
I wished I could assure her Mom and Dad did love her and Dustin, but I wasn’t sure they loved me, let alone Deb and their grandson.
Warren had fucked up big-time, so much so that Pop hated to admit Warren was his son. My big brother had been a cop on the Sacramento Police Force and was in line for a promotion but got passed over. It had pissed him off, and he wasn’t able to get over it. He’d let his anger get the best of him and stole a gun from the evidence locker and sold it on the black market. When he got away with it and realized how much money he could make, he began stealing and selling guns and drugs.
When a wealthy man was charged with murder, Warren had offered to make the evidence disappear in exchange for a large amount of money. Unfortunately Warren was busted and his extracurricular activities had been exposed.
The day he’d been sentenced to ten years in prison, my father had a major heart attack. It had been three years, three very long years.
“You know you can call me if you ever need anything,” I said. “You have enough money?”
She patted my hand. “We’re doing okay, Jeremy.”
“You should come and visit me. The three of us would have fun in Reno.”
“Maybe,” she said. “If I can get the time off.”
Deb and I made small talk for a few minutes before she asked me if I would hang out with Dustin while she ran some errands.
“Happily,” I replied.
I sat down with Dustin but paid little attention to whatever show was playing.
“Any girls in class you got your eyes on?” I elbowed him playfully.
“Uncle Jeremy!” He laughed.
“Aren’t kids your age getting married nowadays?”
“No way. We’re just kids.” He stood, got behind me, wrapped his little arm around my neck, and tried to wrestle me to the ground.
Pretending to be too weak, I fell to the floor, and Dustin faked a wrestling move and landed on my chest. I tickled his sides, and he giggled wildly, sliding off me.
“I got some friends who are all girl crazy.” Dustin sat back down to watch the show.
He shrugged. “Girls are pretty. Some of them, anyway. But one of my friends has a girlfriend, and he has to spend all his time with her at recess. Most of them, they just sit and talk.” He rolled his eyes in disgust. “I’d rather play tag or baseball.”
Smart kid. No need to get attached so young. Much better to enjoy his youth while he still had it.
“Your mom doesn’t like Greg, does she?”
Dustin peered at me for an instant, then shook his head. “She thinks he can make me gay. There ain’t no such thing as gay cooties.”
I chuckled and patted his back.
“I’ll be friends with Greg at school. Maybe someday Mom will be okay.”
“You’re a good kid, Dustin.”
“And you’re a good uncle.” He wrapped his arms around me and squeezed.
The chance of Deb freaking out if she knew I was gay was a very real possibility. I wasn’t sure what she would do, but cutting me out of Dustin’s life was a likelihood. And that was something I wasn’t prepared to have happen.
I am a huge fan of this series. The first two books centered primarily around Reno police detective Christian Flesh, and his investigations and romance with Colby Maddox. Book three was about Christian’s friend, Gabe Vargas, who was in witness protection under the care of Agent Drew Bradley. Christian still played a part in the story and he does again in Closing Ranks.
Jeremy Ranklin is an officer in the Internal Affairs department of the Reno police. When he suspects the police chief’s suicide is really murder, he begins an off the books investigation with Detective Flesh. Police officer Kipp Mosely can see what they are doing and offers to help in a limited capacity. There is a strong attraction between the two men but Kipp is out and proud, while Rank has banished himself to the closet forever. He has his reasons, and I can understand them, but I can’t help but want him to take his relationship with Kipp public.They start an affair in secret but they have many hurdles to overcome, including Rank’s homophobic family and Kipp withholding a secret that pertains to the case.
As much as I enjoyed the attraction and love story that ran through the story line, it in no way overshadowed the mystery and intrigue in the book. With the help of a quirky lab tech named Leif, they quickly uncover a lot of evidence that contradicts suicide, but finding out who would want the chief dead calls up far too many suspects. Was it the interim police chief, a woman that none of the officers like? Or could it have been the mob boss that the former chief had dedicated himself to putting behind bars? Or, perhaps it was one of the people he had put behind bars in the past?
There are encrypted files to look through and it appears that there is more than one corrupt police officer on the force. The amount of secrets and possible murderers blew me away, and I was so caught up in the story, perched on the edge of my seat as it unfolded. Even though this book is not about the original main characters of the series, I feel like this was the best so far. I don’t know if the author plans on adding to the series, but I hope he does. The mystery in the series is top notch. Besides, there is an undercover agent named Rafe and the lab tech Leif who were both great secondary characters and I’d love for each of them or maybe both of them to have a story.
Ethan Stone is an out and proud gay man. Which is fairly new in his life, the out part, not the gay part. He’s been queer his whole life, though he tried to deny it for years with a wonderful woman. The years in denial weren’t all bad, he has two amazing kids out of it. His son is a teenager and his daughter has made him a grandfather, three times over. A way too young grandfather.
Ethan has returned to Oregon after almost a decade in Nevada. He no longer has a day job and is doing his best to make a living at this writing thing. If he can’t make a living, he at least wants to support his Mt. Dew and beef jerky addictions.
Readers can find Ethan online.
Ethan will be giving away a $25 Amazon giftcard to one lucky commenter on the tour. Be sure to leave a thoughtful comment on each stop on the tour for additional chances to win. The tour organizer will select a winner from entires received as of close of business 1 November.
20 Oct – Prism Book Alliance
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22 Oct – Joyfully Jay
23 Oct – Novel Approach
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26 Oct – Boys in Our Books
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29 Oct – Ethan Stone
30 Oct – Hearts on Fire Reviews
31 Oct – Rainbow Gold Reviews