Monday, June 29, 2009

Somebody Killed His Editor by Josh Lanyon

TITLE: Somebody Killed His Editor
AUTHOR: Josh Lanyon
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 69k)
GENRE: Gay erotic romantic mystery
COST: $5.50

The last thing Christopher Holmes wants is to spend the weekend at a writer’s conference, but his agent insists it’s the only way to save his flagging career. When the first thing he does there is discover a dead body, his fears about the course of the next couple days become founded, especially when he’s brought face to face with the editor he loathes, an ex-lover determined to accuse him of murder, and a killer on the loose…

NOTE: This is a review originally written for Uniquely Pleasurable.

Josh Lanyon’s new comic mystery series starts not with a whimper, but a bang. There’s a terrible rainstorm, a washed-out bridge, and, oh yes, a dead body. At its core is the mystery writer Christopher Holmes, whose book series about a crime-solving, British senior citizen and her cat has just been dropped. It’s all about chick lit and paranormals, his agent tells him. This is your chance to get relevant.

Except Christopher doesn’t want to get relevant. He doesn’t want to be there at all. He’s surrounded by a gaggle of writers, nearly all female, who spend more time socializing and talking about the process than actually writing themselves. There are exceptions within the crowd, authors who have their own success, and it’s with them that the at first narcissistic Christopher actually gets humanized. His high-handed behavior at the top of the story gets revealed as a front to the reader, covering insecurities stacked a mile deep and fear that, at forty, he really is over. It’s this balance of egotism, intelligence, and insecurity that makes him a wonderfully entertaining and engaging narrator.

This is probably the funniest Lanyon book I’ve read to date, with the vast majority of the humor coming from Christopher’s observations and wry delivery. The skewed inside look at the publishing industry gives him plenty of fodder as well (I have to admit to chortling far too long over Christopher’s line – after his pitch has bombed - “I guess I can still have a full and rewarding career writing Diagnosis Murder spin-off novels.”) It reads swiftly, with short, punchy, action-filled chapters, barely giving a moment to breathe. It’s not a wholly clean editorial read – for instance, I got stopped short when Christopher snaps once, “Ya vol, mon Commandant.” I don’t know if the misspelling of the German jawohl is a deliberate joke to make the delivery of the line funnier or an actual error, but it still yanked me out of the story for a moment. Either way, the line ends up failing for me, but I’m forgiving of instances like these (there are a few) when the rest of it is so sharp and funny.

There’s a plethora of supporting characters within the bunch, and while some succeed – the crackling Rachel Ving is a personal favorite – others do not fare quite as well. Christopher’s romantic foil is his one-time lover, J.X. Moriarity, and while J.X.’s suave perfection provides a nice balance to Christopher’s growing dishevelment – both in appearance and real life circumstances – I never really connected to him on an emotional level. Most of that, I’m sure, is that this is the book that sets up the rest of the series, and since J.X. is the unknown in this, both for the reader and very much to Christopher, this is the relationship that will end up experiencing all the growth. Have to give the author room to navigate, after all. For me, that means that ultimately, J.X. is likeable in this, but far more serviceable in terms of the mystery than the romance. I think I’m going to have to wait for the second book to see how I truly feel about him.

The enjoyment in this comes from the narrator’s voice and the carefully constructed action and environment, more so than either the romance or the mystery. The murderer didn’t come as much of a surprise to me, but I’m an avid thriller and mystery reader. Others might not guess as quickly as I did, or they might guess erroneously, since there is a whole host of suspects to be found in this. Either way, that doesn’t stop me from whole-heartedly recommending this. It’s swift, shrewd, and irresistible, the qualities I’ve come to expect and appreciate from Lanyon.


10/10 – Swift, shrewd, and irresistibly funny

Hero #1

8/10 – An entertaining balance of insecurity, egotism, and intelligence

Hero #2

6/10 – Not as fully developed, though more than likable

Entertainment value

8/10 – I tore through this, chuckling all the way

World building

9/10 – The insider’s look at the business is hilarious and vivid, while the environment leaps off the page



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