Fatal Shadows - Josh Lanyon
(Adrien English Series #1)
We bought the second (A Dangerous Thing) in this series by Josh Lanyon many, many months ago, but had trouble tracking down a copy of this one, the first. Iím so glad I resisted reading the second because much of the delightful tension of this one would have been spoilt.
The crime story in the novel isnít revolutionary, and itís quite light reading, but what really struck me about this book and had me read it avidly in one day is its ďheroĒ and his love life (or lack of it).
Adrien English owns a bookstore specialising in crime fiction, especially gay crime (he stocks the whole of the Joseph Hansen Brandstetter series!). Heís educated and rich, coming into an inheritance when he was only eight. Pretty, tall and slim, he lives his life on a knifeís edge due to rheumatic fever when he was sixteen. He copes with his weak heart, and doesnít let it rule his life, but he is detached and remote from people.
When his best friend and employee is found brutally murdered, Adrien becomes the policeís number one suspectómainly because they are both gay, and to the homophobic detectives that are running the case, gay men must be sleeping together and that leads to murder! Adrien sets out to clear his name by investigating the case. That heís writing his own detective series, based around a gay detective, is entirely coincidental to his passion for sleuthing!!
One of the detectives, Jake, seems to be particularly suspicious of Adrien. Utterly stunning, heís openly homophobic, which confuses Adrien and sends him into the arms of the first man heís felt attracted to for a long time: the enigmatic Bruce, a reporter who wants to cover the case.
I was so taken with the end of this book that I immediately picked up the second and started it, and believe me, itís even more delightful. I canít say too much because it would utterly ruin the ending of this one. I think youíll like these booksÖ very much!
If youíre looking for a quick and entertaining read this novel should do it.† Itís a fairly light mystery compared with Hansen or Stevenson, but I enjoyed it, for characters more than murder plot.† It easily sustained my interest through to an exciting, sexy dťnouement.† Yes, I guessed the identity of the killer but hadnít worked out details that make convincing motivation for serial murder.†
Though itís easy reading, Lanyon has good literary style.† I didnít notice typos other reviewers have complained about.† There are a few mistakes but perhaps the GMP edition we read has been tidied up.† I was never taken out of the story, so donít let that put you off.
Adrien English, 32 year-old owner of a gay mystery bookstore in Pasadena, awakens one fine morning to find two policemen on his doorstep.† They bring bad news.† Old school friend and recent employee, Rob Hersey, was found stabbed to death in a back alley.† Adrien is chief suspect because he had dinner with Rob the previous evening and a very public quarrel.
Someoneís out to get Adrien- a break-in, threatening phonecalls, anonymous gifts of flowers.† The police think heís just a hysterical Ďfaggotí drama queen.† Well, except for hunky detective Riordan, tall blond macho man with intense tawny eyes.† Riordanís interest in the case convinces Adrien his arrest is imminent.† He turns detective to clear his name, except itís not like in the mystery novels.
Adrien has a heart problem that causes nervous collapse.† His grandmotherís legacy bought the store and heís comfortably off, with time to run a writerís group, and a first novel about to be published.† Bookish Adrien couldíve been stereotypical, but Lanyon makes him likeable company, charming, witty and wry, with sarcastic and self-deprecating humour.† I warmed to him straight away.
Bruce Green, freelance writer for a local gay newspaper, wants to know Adrien better.† Is he out to dig dirt, or is he lonely, like Adrien, celibate since boyfriend Mel left?† Bruce is persistent and Adrien finds company better than solitary nights with disturbing fantasies involving a handsome cop with long legs and big shoulders.
When Adrien discovers more of his former classmates are dead, he figures heís next on the list, unless he solves the puzzle, the only clue a chess piece left with some of the bodies.† Is Riordan out to help Adrien or hang him?† Heís a fascinating character, a man with his own secrets to hide.† Thereís an interesting dynamic between the two, an electric attraction both feel but try to pretend isnít there.† Riordan dates women after all.† Lanyon strings us along with will they/wonít they? tension to the end.†
That we can never truly know other people is a theme of the book.† Rob was gay but he married and had a family who still donít accept his sexuality.† Adrienís flamboyant friend Claude affects a French accent and a campy persona.† Riordanís tough guy appearance is at odds with his protective attitude to Adrien.† Sex is sticking plaster and itís good but we canít pretend intimacy we donít feel, as Adrien discovers.† This novel is a promising start to a series.† Iíve heard Lanyon is struggling to find a publisher for his third book, like too many gay fic writers (Jack Dickson, James Lear).† I really hope he succeeds.
Buy Fatal Shadows from Amazon here
Buy from the States at Lambda Rising Booksellers here