A MelanieM Review: Tainted Love (Soho Noir #1) by T.S. Hunter


Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5


It’s 1985, and Joe Stone is excited to be joining his old school friend, and lifelong crush, Chris, for a long weekend in London’s Soho—home to a vibrant, developing gay scene, and a million miles from the small town Joe and Chris grew up in.

But when Chris is brutally murdered, the police just write his death off as another rent boy, fallen foul of a bad hook up. Joe realises that his best friend was killed deliberately, and joins forces with former police detective, Russell Dixon—Chris’s flatmate—to find out why.

Spiralling debt, illicit sex, blackmail, spurned lovers and hard-nosed gangsters all play their part, but who among the celebrities, fashionistas, drag queens, ex-lovers and so-called friends is Chris’s killer?

A noirish whodunit set in 1980s London, with all the big hair, electro-pop, shoulder pads, police discrimination and lethal killers that the era had to offer.


Ok, so right off the bat, I had to wonder who was writing the blurb, had they read the story, and did they even know what one, a cozy mystery was (no, the answer is no), and two, did they understand what noir means?  Because noir and cozy are about as polar opposite as you can possibly be.  And Tainted Love (Soho Noir #1) by T.S. Hunter isn’t a cozy and it isn’t noir.  So that big old statement of it being the first in a “noir series” of Cozy crime novellas?  Strikes dread in this mystery lovers heart.

A cozy btw is  a mystery that uses humor to downplay the crime and violence, aka murder, in the story, the settings are a small intimate village or town where everyone knows everybody.  Whether its Midsomers Murders or Jessica Fletcher, that’s a cozy. A noir?  All those “hardboiled detective” fiction like Sam Spade jumps to mind but it’s defined as “a genre of crime film or fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity.  Again, this book plays loosely with that term.

So what the author and Red Dog Press should do is dump all those poor attempts to keep slapping bad labels on this story and simply call it a mystery.  On that it nicely stands alone.

Its set in the 1980’s and the author has a great feel for the best and worst of the decade, especially its more tawdry side.  It’s the seemier side that gets the most play here when Joe Stone’s old friend and crush is murdered.  This isn’t a romance but a straight mystery that unfolds as hidden relationships unravel, homophobia on the police force is still powerfully evident especially when dealing with crimes against homosexuals, and the whole sex, drugs and rock n roll was very much alive.

The characters are well developed but keep an odd dissociation or disconnect from one another.  I never felt as though any of them cared a wit about each other no matter how much they said that they did.  Well constructed yes, but without a heart. So odd.

The mystery itself was well done.  I was never emotionally invested in anything that happened in this novel but admired the writing and enjoyed watching the investigation unfold.  It  felt consistent for the time period, believable too.  But the story never pulled me in, never connected me to the people or the events taking place.  So no matter that the foundation was solid and the house sturdy, the hearth remained cold.

Even in noir there is passion, and in cozy laughter.  Here there is neither.  But there is an interesting mystery to unravel.

I wonder what they are going to do with the rest of the series.

Cover art is graphically interesting and eye catching.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Direct from publisher

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 85 pages
Expected publication: April 18th 2019 by Red Dog Press
SeriesSoho Noir #1