Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Hell You Say by Josh Lanyon

TITLE: The Hell You Say
AUTHOR: Josh Lanyon
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 79k)
GENRE: Gay mystery
COST: $7.99

Adrien English is back, and he’s having problems with yet another shop employee. When his bookstore assistant believes his life is in danger from the coven he’s joined, Adrien gives him a little bit of money to disappear – much to the chagrin of his sometime boyfriend, Detective Jake Riordan. Jake wants to question Angus about other ritual murders that are popping up around town, but when Adrien starts digging deeper, he learns that there might be even more to the big picture. A missing popular author, demon sigils painted on his doorstep, his mother’s upcoming wedding…life is always interesting for Adrien, if not exactly fun.

Before I say anything else, I need to make one thing clear. This is not a romance. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s sold in e-format by Loose Id. Like the previous books, Adrien’s relationship with Jake is in the background, and there are a couple scenes of intimacy, but this is not the driving thrust of the story. On top of this, it deviates from standard romance conventions, so don’t go into the story expecting them. That doesn’t detract from the story itself, as long as the reader is aware that he might not be satisfied if all he wants is romance.

There. The warning is out of the way.

Have I made it clear yet how much I adore Josh Lanyon? I haven’t, you say? Then let me rectify that here and now. Aside from sharp prose – often funny, always hitting close to the emotional bone – he’s created a character I adore and want desperately to follow into the next book, and the next, and the next one after that. Adrien is smart, but not too smart, with a penchant to get himself into trouble – like any amateur sleuth – but I never feel like it’s over the top or unreal. I love how nothing comes overly easy to him. Not the mystery – because he has plenty of false leads in this one – and not his romantic life. More than once in this, I gasped out loud, smarting with Adrien as something else shocked his poor, unsuspecting heart.

One of those shocks is Jake. While my feelings about Jake have been ambivalent in the past, they’re not anymore. I don’t really like him all that much, and frankly, Adrien can do so much better. Jake’s behavior can be so damn condescending – like the ruffling of Adrien’s hair like Adrien is some kind of pet – that by chapter five, I wanted to slam Jake’s closet door and lock him inside. He’s clearly happier there. He hates the fact that he has soft feelings for Adrien. Nobody should have to put up with that in their lives, and Adrien has a higher self-worth – I hope – to know he deserves better than that.

The characters that populate a Lanyon book are always colorful, and this one is no exception. I particularly loved the Dauten family. Lisa, Adrien’s mother, is finally remarrying, and the colorful family she’s marrying into had me grinning throughout most of their scenes as Adrien struggled not to get swamped by all their perkiness. The fact that poor Adrien connected most to the twelve-year-old Emma was simply perfect.

If I have any criticisms about the story is that the author takes a great deal of time and care building his mystery, and then it’s over. The last chapter or two seem a bit anticlimactic as everything gets wrapped up just a little too quickly without enough explanations as to motive and means. There’s some there, but it’s not nearly as rich as the rest of the novel, which was a tad disappointing. But ultimately, this is a very minor complaint. I’m impatiently waiting now for the next Lanyon book to come out, whether it’s the 4th Adrien English book I tortured myself over in reading the excerpt on his website, or something brand new. I’ll be there, with money in hand.

He had me at “Chapter One.”


9/10 – The same sharp writing I’ve come to expect from this author.


9/10 – I ache for Adrien, especially when he gets put the wringer like he does in this particular story.


8/10 – The resolution seemed a bit rushed to me, and I was hoping for some better explanations of the machinations of the evildoer, but otherwise it was well-thought out and expertly executed.

Entertainment value

9/10 – I mentioned the aching already, didn’t I?

World building

9/10 – Creepy and oppressive, just like I’m sure he meant it to be.



1 comment:

Josh Lanyon said...

Thank you again for another thoughtful and detailed review. Such a pleasure to read these, especially when they're written about by own work, and especially since you mostly enjoy my work.*g*