This book, the fourth in the series featuring bookseller and amateur sleuth Adrien English, has been anticipated by fans for two years. For this reader and many others, it has been well worth the wait.
In this installment, Adrienís novel has been optioned for a movie, and he finds himself at a dinner party hosted by actor Paul Kane with other movers and shakers in the movie business. As Porter Jones falls face-first into his bowl of soup, the reader knows that Adrien is once more going to be back in the thick of it - as unfair as it is, since Adrien has not been involved in a murder enquiry for a good two years.
Adrienís life would seem complicated enough: he is expanding his bookstore and he recovering from pneumonia. The untimely and deliberate death of a man sitting next to you at the dinner table would be bad enough, but when the cops walk in to investigate this high-profile murder, one of them is Adrienís ex, Jake Riordan. Can anyone say Ďlife turned upside down?í
The series is mystery-based but fans have eagerly awaited not only the next murder Adrien will investigate but also the next installment in his relationship with former lover, closeted cop Jake Riordan, with whom he parted ways with at the end of book three. This book is mystery and romance; marketed as both, it will appeal to both audiences as it is expertly written.
One might think that Lanyon would have a lot on his plate writing a well-structured quality mystery and combining it with a romance, as well as meeting expectations of the fans of the series, yet he manages to fulfill all the briefs. As fans of mystery, romance or simply those wanting a well-told story line up at the buffet for their reading fill, their plates will be filled to overflowing.
The action continues here after the untimely death when Adrien is persuaded, reluctantly, to become involved by Paul Kane in investigating the killing, which brings Adrien back into the business of amateur sleuthing as well as back in the path of Jake. It also brings him into opposition with his lover, Guy, who doesnít want Adrien sleuthing again - especially if it has anything to do with Jake.
This book holds perhaps the greatest expectation yet for the series as readers wait for many things to be resolved. Adrien has changed in two years: he appears harder, though much of that is talk, and his insistence that he is happy with his life and with his new lover, Guy, are clearly less than true. He is rocked by a revelation from Paul Kane about Jake, and the reader feels his struggles as it takes him to a very dark place to sort out his feelings for Jake, Guy, even himself.
The mystery is fairly solid, though many like myself will work at least some of it out early on. There are still plenty of red herrings and shocks to keep readers thinking and vitally interested.
Many of the characters we love from the previous books are back, and we see Adrien deal with his new stepfamily, first featured in book three. The family members, as support cast, are terrific. As usual, every character, even those who will never be heard from again, is well rounded, totally believable, and adds to the layers and complexities of the story.
Adrienís mother, while having a small role, seems to develop more in this installment then any of the others. Adrienís relationship with his youngest stepsister, Emma, is touching. Jake is always especially well-written. Even seen through Adrienís eyes as the author writes in first person, the clever use of detail and Lanyonís uncanny ability of being able to say so much with so little, means the reader can read Jake differently to Adrien when necessary.
Jake is a little bit softer, having learned a lot in the two-year gap, and attempts at redemption are made, though whether readers will forgive him or hate him more after this installment will depend upon the reader.
Comparing the paths Jake and Adrienís lives have taken in those two intervening years raises questions about consequences faced for choices made as well as the right and wrong way to decide what you want in life. Their stories almost mirror each other in the gut-wrenching stakes.
It would be unfair to include any spoilers, so whether Jake changes and what happens between him and Adrien are as off-limits here as declaring whodunit and why. I will say though that the emotional journey is written with even more brilliance and insight than the previous novels in the series.
For those not familiar with the series and the romance market of this book, I should point out that there are sex scenes which may offend some. If a cozy mystery is what you are after with little or no personal life of the protagonist, this book is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you would not be offended by your protag having a love life, you may just enjoy the book anyway even if you do not consider yourself a romance reader, so enjoyable is the story.
As far as those love scenes are concerned, they are not so many as to turn this book into mere erotic titillation but rather just enough, and they do form part of the plot and further the story. They exceed expectations in being some of the most beautiful, passionate and emotional love scenes I have ever read.
You will cry reading this book, especially if you are a long-held fan; you will puzzle at the mystery, you will get intensely angry at Adrienís hurt and circumstances, and you will laugh as well. Lanyonís gift for humor is well intact in this book, making you laugh out loud even if you felt heartbroken just seconds before, a testament to the authorís skill.
As book four in the series, this one should probably be read in the order intended. If you have not read the other books, then I suggest you do so first - then again, Lanyon does give enough info so you could read it stand-alone.
Regardless, put this book on your wish list and look forward to an action-packed mystery and a powerful emotional journey all in one.
Josh Lanyon is the author of the Adrien English mystery novels and other works including a nonfiction work, Man, Oh Man! Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks & Cash.
He lives in Los Angeles, California. For more information, see