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REVIEW: Adrien English Mysteries by Josh Lanyon

Dear Mr. Lanyon:

I don’t ordinarily look for gay fiction but in at the urging of Teddy Pig I picked up the Adrien English Mysteries which is a two novella* collection featuring the titular character, Adrien English, a gay bookstore owner and mystery writer with a bad heart, whose situation forces him into sleuthing.

These stories are told in the first person and English is a great narrator. He’s self deprecating with a dry sense of humor, a good sense of self, and a general appreciation for his particular lot in life. Like many titular characters, his personal relationships have been unsuccessful.

The first novella is Fatal Shadows which introduces Adrien to the reading audience. An employee and old acquaintance of his is murdered and Adrien looks to be the prime suspect. The Los Angeles detectives, Chan and Riordan, seem to be closing in on Adrien. To prevent going to prison, Adrien is forced to do some investigating of his own and in doing so, puts his own life in danger.

The best part of this book is Adrien’s narration. He’s observations are concise, yet descriptive.

The Finches are writing partners, which seems like a surefire way to destroy a healthy marriage, but what do I know? My social life was pronounced DOA many moons ago. She’s small and slim and dark, and so is he; a matched pair, like bookends. They met at one of the Bouchercon mystery conferences. Love among the midlist.

and

I murmured noncommittally and picked up the gold-edged pink tea cup. The handle was too small to actually get my fingers through. I always felt like I was playing house at these brunches. All that was missing was a giant imaginary friend. I could have used a friend here.

and

I tried to think of someone who might send me flowers. Anyone. I couldn’t think of a single person I was on flowery terms with — let alone flowers with cryptic notes.

The mysteries themselves, both in Fatal Shadows and A Dangerous Thing, the second novella, are interesting but not innovative. What makes this book, or collection of stories sparkle, is Adrien himself. Because the first person presents only one point of view it takes a particularly insightful narrator to expose the reader to the full complement of the narrator’s surroundings and provide insight as to the thoughts and behaviors of other characters. This works well because it not only shows the reader a more fulsome view of things, but it also shows the reader that the Adrien is truly sharp enough to be a good detective.

The added benefit is the emotionally moving relationship that develops between Adrien and detective Riordan. Riordan isn’t just a closeted gay. He is someone who hasn’t been able to come to grips with his own sexuality. He still sleeps with women and wants to live what he deems a normal life. His attraction to Adrien is one of great reluctance. Adrien’s also has little desire to embrace the feelings, both emotional and sexual he begins to feel toward Riordan:

Riordan was not remotely my type. Even without the whips and canes and butt plugs. I don’t understand the wish — let alone the need — to be dominated, controlled. Not presuming to judge, just not something I wanted for myself.

And yet.

And yet there was something about his strength, his arrogance, his sheer size that got under my skin. He probably didn’t couldn’t even spell vanilla. He was probably selfish in the sack. Probably selfish and greedy and … unsophisticated. And hung like a horse.

Interestingly when I told one of my gay friends about the book and urged him to read it, he claimed that he had no interest in reading about any closeted characters. He was done with them and waved his hands in a cutting gesture. I thought that the conflict was a great one but, of course, I don’t have to deal with the trauma that those types of relationships create.

Adrien and Riordan are familiar characters within the romance trope only I found Adrien to be a bit smarter and more emotionally adjusted than the average heroine. Adrien does veer toward TSTL territory toward the end of Fatal Shadows in an effort to heighten Adrien’s personal jeopardy. Riordan was a standard alpha male whose issue was his own sexuality rather than that of commitment. There are only a few sex scenes in the stories but the full encounter between Riordan and Adrien toward the end of Fatal Shadows is quite beautiful. The relationship is more fully fleshed out in A Dangerous Thing. As a whole, I would give the collection a B+.

Best regards,

Jane

You can purchase the trade paperbacks of Fatal Shadows and A Dangerous Thing from Amazon or both stories in ebook format from Loose Id at a much reduced cost.

*These are longer than a traditional novella but not as long as a regular mass market. The two books come in under 50,000 words per story so I wasn’t quite sure what to categorize them as.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

24 Comments

  1. Mary M
    May 21, 2008 @ 15:35:47

    I bought Fatal Shadows just last week and am hoping to receive it this week! I heard a lot of praise about Lanyon’s books and his characters. This morning I received two anthologies that both include a Lanyon story, so that should sustain me in the meantime :). Pity the covers for the Andrien English e-books are so much nicer than the paperback ones. It makes me want to print the e-books pictures to fashion dust jackets.

  2. Jorrie Spencer
    May 21, 2008 @ 15:44:06

    I’m a big fan of Josh Lanyon, so it’s great to see these reviewed here. His novella, Snowball in Hell, may be my favorite to date. I am looking forward to reading the next Adrien this summer.

  3. Marg
    May 21, 2008 @ 16:02:28

    I just won a copy of this a couple of days ago! I haven’t read any M/M before so it is very definitely something new to me!

  4. Kim
    May 21, 2008 @ 16:10:42

    I will admit it….I am a Fanyon! I just finished Dangerous Ground and loved it and I love the Adrian English stories. Can’t wait for the next one!
    Great review Jane!

  5. carolyn Jean
    May 21, 2008 @ 16:18:33

    Oh, boy, I love this series!

    I started with Adrien English book #3, THE HELL YOU SAY, and I immediately picked up the first two. Book #3 remains my favorite, but they are all so funny and exciting and romantic, with a little bit of edge. Especially when it comes to Riordan, who is a deliciously conflicted and tortured hero. I am usually somebody who is anal about reading in order, but I liked starting with #3.

    I agree about the sparkling narration. In fact, I find it hard almost to write blog entries on Lanyon, because I keep remembering lines I want to put in, and sometimes I feel like it’s all just me quoting lines.

    I like Adrien’s emerging detectiveness that you point out. It is really satisfying, but I don’t know why. I often think of this series in relation to Janet Evanovich’s Plum mysteries, though Adrien English is often wittier in a pop culture sort of way, and more poignantly three dimensional than Stephanie Plum, who of course, I always love. But both have that nice amateur detective thing going on. Though where Stephanie uses more persistence and personality, Adrien uses cleverness.

  6. lisabea
    May 21, 2008 @ 16:24:36

    Adrien is my BFF. ::shakes hat with bells::

    YAY for Josh! Now you must read The Hell You Say. Best of the three.

    And CJ isn’t anal about Adrien. Huh.

  7. Shannon C.
    May 21, 2008 @ 16:28:31

    Interesting. I have these TBR and it gives me hope that I’ll like them because you did, Jane.

  8. Robin
    May 21, 2008 @ 17:22:59

    Although I’m very much *not* a fan of Lanyon’s online voice, it sounds like I would really enjoy these books. There’s something in the narrative voice — as represented in the excerpts, at least — that reminds me of Steve Almond, especially in the dry, self-conscious self-deprecation.

  9. MB (Leah)
    May 21, 2008 @ 20:30:17

    Nice review. This looks really interesting to me. I’ll definitely pick it up.

  10. Murphy
    May 22, 2008 @ 15:23:09

    I have been reading Josh Lanyon since 1998. His books get better and better. My favorites are the Adrien English Series! They are very witty and fun. I love the Adrien character, I don’t care what he detects as long as he has a story.

  11. nicole kimberling
    May 22, 2008 @ 23:01:11

    I truly adore Josh Lanyon. His depictions of complex relationships are fantastic! (And his mysteries are awesome too!)

  12. Lauralyn
    May 23, 2008 @ 17:54:54

    Josh Lanyon’s prose is amazingly insightful, delicate, beautiful, and subtle. I love his work, and think it’s always a shame to see people saying they haven’t read it because it’s a gay novel or an M/M romance or a genre piece. This is one writer who should not be categorized, although since he writes mysteries I feel pretty lucky. This is a man who could write DVD player instructions and I’d still pay to read them.

  13. Amber Green
    May 23, 2008 @ 18:27:00

    Good reading. Good books to keep on hand, because re-reading doesn’t make them tiresome.

  14. EmmieJaynies
    May 24, 2008 @ 00:32:57

    These books were recommended by a friend, so I bought the first one. Before I’d even finished the first chapter I had to go online and order the other two! From the very beginning, I was captured by the character of Adrien, and he’s now one of my favourite fictional characters. No, re-reading doesn’t make them tiresome, they’re the kind of book (the best kind!)where re-reading just makes you miss those tiny details that you might have overlooked the first time! I’m now anxiously awaiting more of Josh’s work in the post! His writing style is fast-paced and the little thumbnail descriptions of characters are both informative and entertaining. In some ways, the work reminds me of Tony Fennelly’s ‘Matty Sinclair’ mysteries – the first mystery novels I ever really got excited about!

  15. Murphy
    May 27, 2008 @ 15:30:34

    I enjoyed the Matty Sinclair mysteries, too. When I first read Josh Lanyon I was afraid it was going to be another Tony Fennelly, where there were only so many books. Luckily, Josh is very prolific with lots of different characters. He has some new characters coming out at the end of the year with lots of novellas with fun characters.

  16. Sarah
    Jun 04, 2008 @ 04:10:56

    I throughly enjoyed reading all three books and they have really stayed with me. He writes so beautifully and I am really looking forward to the 4th book. The latest excerpt of which, on lisabea’s site on left, is just magic every time I read it. Yeah, I have my moss green shirt on…and cap.

  17. Mikaswed
    Jun 11, 2008 @ 02:04:38

    I bought “Fatal shadows” from GMP 2000 and now I have 2 versions of Fatal Shadows, A Dangerous Thing and The Hell You Say, because I buy his books as soon as they are publiched and later on I must buy a copie of the reviced books!
    I lend Fatal Shadows and A Dangerous Thing to a high school teacher and she orderd 20 copies of each for her english-classes to read and the kids loved them! Today we have the 3 Adrien English books in our town library so Josh have many fans here i Sweden.

  18. Louise van Hine
    Jul 10, 2008 @ 10:47:47

    full encounter at the end of Fatal Shadows?

    Did I get a different version? I downloaded the ebook, and the only thing that happened was a cryptic comment in the car. Was there a chapter added to the trade paperback that didn’t exist in the ebook?

    The first book had an as-yet-unconsummated relationship in the version I read.

  19. Jane
    Jul 10, 2008 @ 11:04:41

    My ebook copy had both books: Fatal Shadows and Dangerous Thing.

  20. Louise van Hine
    Jul 10, 2008 @ 11:41:08

    Right, but there was no “full encounter” until months later in the 2nd book, right?

  21. Books for September « Me and my books
    Aug 30, 2008 @ 05:01:45

    […] Lanyon's “Death of a Pirate King” (m/m mystery):  After reading the Dear Author review, I bought the first three books in this series, and became completely and utterly hooked.  Highly […]

  22. Lori
    Sep 11, 2008 @ 19:25:26

    Adrien and Jake did not consummate their relationship until the 2nd book, ‘A Dangerous Thing’. Like Louise’s comment, I was confused by Jane’s ‘full encounter’ comment in ‘Fatal Shadows’. Unless there has been a reediting of the books since I purchased mine, there was no ‘full encounter’ in the first book between Adrien and Jake. The last scene had them in Adrien’s car with Jake remarking about starting something between them. The end. Let me know if I’m missing something.

  23. Jane
    Sep 11, 2008 @ 19:45:43

    Sorry, in my ebook volume, both stories are included and my review attempted to cover the course of those two stories.

  24. EmmieJaynies
    Sep 11, 2008 @ 20:02:54

    PHEW! I was thinking I’d have to chase up a new copy! I don’t want to miss anything in these books! I can’t WAIT for the new one! *wibbles*

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