Thursday, April 20

The Hell You Say by Josh Lanyon

Review by Pat Brown

I'm a voracious reader. I go through 3-4 books a week, reading on the bus on my way to work, during lunch and in bed at night. Usually that means I'm reading 3 books at a time. But every so often a book comes along that captures my imagination and I break my pattern. The Hell You Say is one such novel. I found myself thinking about it even when I wasn't reading it, and now that I'm done I'm still thinking about it. I wish it had been longer.

This is the third book Josh Lanyon's Adrien English series. The first book, Fatal Shadows, alas is no longer in print, though you can download a PDF copy of it off of Lanyon's web site. His second book, A Dangerous Thing, is available, though my copy is coming from the UK so it might be something you need to track down. It's well worth the search just to have all three in your possession.

Adrien English is a young, gay mystery bookstore owner who writes his own mysteries on the side. He has the misfortune of finding himself dragged into oddball mysteries. His on again-off again boyfriend, Jake, an LAPD Homicide Detective who's way too firmly entrenched in the closet to be comfortable 'being' with Adrien is not happy when this happens. Frankly, he's not happy most of the time he's with Adrien. The dynamics between Adrien and Jake are a big factor in the power of this book, but don't be put off by the 'gayness' - there's very little sex (it occurs but not on paper) and the struggle is mostly about Jake's desire for Adrien (at one point earlier in their relationship he says 'I like girls, I just like men better') and his even stronger desire that absolutely no one knows he sleeps with men. A lot of the conflict in The Hell You Say is around how the current case could very well blow his secret right out of the water. Just how far will Jake go to protect that secret?

Adrien, meanwhile, finds himself embroiled in a bizarre search for a Satanic cult that he suspects is sacrificing people and now threaten Angus, Adrien's bookstore employee who dabbles in the dark arts. When bodies start piling up and the police, including an unhappy Jake, are sniffing after Adrien with suspicions he might be involved, Adrien knows he has to find out what's going on before he becomes the next victim. A subplot dealing with Adrien's oh so proper mother and her plans to marry again to a politician with three big haired blond daughters adds another layer of humor to an already funny book.

Because The Hell You Say is an absolutely hilarious book, except when it's not. Lanyon deftly handles the transitions from Adrien's irreverent attitude to some very nasty crimes without skipping a beat. Don't miss this book. I'm already looking forward to the next one.

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