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REVIEW: The Dark Farewell by Josh Lanyon

The Dark Farewell" by Josh LanyonDear Josh Lanyon,

As our interview with Lorelie Brown says, the Roaring Twenties/Prohibition seems to be “in” now. I know I’ve just recently got three books set in this era and I couldn’t be happier about it. When Samhain offered us your latest novella, “The Dark Farewell,” I jumped at it. But despite a good start, it ultimately ended up being a disappointment for me.

Don't talk to strangers, young man-‘especially the dead ones.

It's the Roaring Twenties. Skirts are short, crime is rampant and booze is in short supply. Prohibition has hit Little Egypt, where newspaperman David Flynn has come to do a follow-up story on the Herren Massacre. The massacre isn't the only news in town though. Spiritualist medium Julian Devereux claims to speak to the dead-‘and he charges a pretty penny for it.

Flynn knows a phoney when he sees one, and he's convinced Devereux is as fake as a cigar store Indian. But the reluctant attraction he feels for the deceptively soft, not-his-type Julian is as real as it gets.

Suddenly Julian begins to have authentic, bloodstained visions of a serial killer, and the cynical Mr. Flynn finds himself willing to defend Julian with not only his life, but his body.

The story starts well and caught my attention from the get go. It has good “period feel” and detail without detailing too much. It feels real and natural instead of contrived and being a way to show off all your research.

There’s a mix of interesting people in it with bits and pieces of their characters, pasts and backstories shown at a realistic rate and rhythm – no info dumping about people or events. And they kept my interest throughout the story which is always good.

I was a bit alarmed at all the subplots but they seemed to be balanced and adroitly handled until the last few chapters when time began to run out and the pace needed to be picked up. And then, it rushed too quickly to an unsatisfying conclusion. I don’t want to give spoilers but suffice it to say that the main mystery was abruptly concluded and the main relationship zipped by too quickly as well. Plus there are plot points which aren’t decisively finished off.

The killer is finally identified and then – bam! – the story is basically over. I needed just a little postcript or something detailing what people thought of it or … something. It just cut off and even the resolution of the impediments to Flynn’s romantic relationship distressed me.

For a story which grabbed my attention from the start, this one ended with me wishing for more. Even an additional 10 pages might have helped here. So I’d give it a good grade for the characters and setting and a lower grade for the resolution which averages to a C+.


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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Janine
    May 01, 2010 @ 14:44:11

    Nicely-written review, Jayne. That’s too bad about the rushed ending, but I’m so glad to hear the Roaring Twenties/Prohibition setting is catching on.

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    May 01, 2010 @ 16:30:28

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  3. Joan/SarahF
    May 01, 2010 @ 18:14:02

    @Janine: That’s so funny. I am so uninterested in the Roaring 20s, it’s not funny. Because either the characters or their children will be involved in WW2 and I just don’t want to even think of that when I close a book. And if not WW2, because numbers might not work out exactly, certainly the Great Depression. ::shudder:: Strange how that’ll turn me off a whole time period.

  4. Sara
    May 01, 2010 @ 21:51:09

    I agree that this is not his best work but his Adrien English mysteries are superb.

  5. Janine
    May 02, 2010 @ 01:32:24

    @Joan/SarahF: I guess I’m just really good at assuming the main characters in a romance will have a happy ending! I’m the kind of reader who doesn’t need a baby epilogue to know that the heroine has survived childbirth. I just assume it. And with regard to the twenties specifically, I love the glamour of that time period, perhaps because Fitzgerald evoked it so well in The Great Gatsby.

  6. Jayne
    May 02, 2010 @ 06:17:18

    @Sara: I haven’t read any of those yet but I have read a few other things by Lanyon and agree that they’re usually fantastic.

  7. Jayne
    May 02, 2010 @ 06:22:20

    @Joan/SarahF: Some time periods will bother me this way but for some reason, the 20s leading into the 30s and WWII doesn’t. I have a hard time reading books about American Indians in the 1800s because of this – though Kathleen Eagle has done some and managed not only to be realistic but to make me want to read those stories.

  8. Jayne
    May 02, 2010 @ 06:24:25

    @Janine: Yep, love the glitz and energy of the period. The way women were finally breaking out of their historical molds along with ditching their corsets.

  9. Kerry
    May 02, 2010 @ 08:52:17

    I had exactly the same thoughts on this book. Loved it up until the end, and then I was left going, “What? Where’s the rest of it?!” And that one part of the ending was way too “neat” of a resolution to the big problem they were facing in their relationship – I like things to be resolved, but that seemed too fake.

    I think the reason I love the Adrien English mysteries is that the ending of each one leaves a lot to look forward to in the next book. With a few other of his single titles, I’ve found the endings slightly disappointing, but the Dark Farewell started out so well, and then just…wah. :(

    I didn’t think I’d be interested in the 20s but the book was really well done in that regard. He has a gift for writing about any time period and making it come alive for the reader. I’m not sure if they’re historically accurate, but they seem to be.

    Thanks for reviewing this – he’s one of my favorite authors.

  10. May 4th roundup « Anne Scott
    May 04, 2010 @ 06:07:23

    […] The Dark Farewell by Josh Lanyon-‘Dear Author C+ […]

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