Meet bookseller Adrien English, a mystery writer whom trouble seems to follow. This time
his bookstore assistant, Angus, is mixed up with a mysterious occult group. The cult
makes threatening phone calls to Angus, and suddenly he is afraid for his life. Adrien doesn't take him all that seriously but
still gives him enough money for him and his girlfriend to leave the city for a while.
From there, things go from bad to worse. A famous occult writer visits Adrien's store and announces that he's writing a new book about a real local cult. Soon after, he vanishes. Then bodies start to turn up, and Angus is a convenient guy
on whom to lay blame. Adrien gets involved as much from a desire to help his friend than from pure curiosity.
At the same time, Adrien has to deal with his sometime lover, Jake Riordan, who is firmly in the closet. Jake is a detective assigned to look into the occult killings and is worried that the case is going to reveal his relationship with Adrien,
so he's not happy when Adrien gets more involved with the case. Also, Adrien's widowed mother, Lisa, is getting married, and she wants Adrien to bond with his future stepfather and his three daughters. Adrien also meets another possible romantic interest.
The book has about equal amounts of amateur sleuthing and more ordinary relationship-building. It's easy to sympathize with Adrien and his troubles,
and most of the characters are believable and entertaining. Adrien's relationship with both
his rich mother and Jake are equally well-written. Lisa is a rather self-involved person who is used to having her own way. On the other hand, after a long widowhood she is trying to change her life, but only on her own terms. Jake is quite an unhappy person who does almost anything
to keep his fellow police officers from finding about his sexual orientation, including dating a female cop. Adrien's writing circle, the Partners in Crime, are quite
an amusing and on-target bunch of would-be writers. On the other hand, the book is short and doesn't give much screen time to the rather large cast; the Partners in Crime,
for example, are seen only in two scenes.
Lanyon handles the subject matter of occultism well. Even though in a detective story there has to be an enemy, he doesn't put all of the occultists or Wiccans or pagans in the book in the same group but
instead makes them human and different.
Josh Lanyon is witty, humorous, and minimal. His chapters are short and have short scenes, so his style might come across as choppy, but it suits the mood and tempo of the story well. His minimal description also serves the story well,
making his San Francisco vivid. Even though this is the third book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone.