Monday, January 11, 2010

The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks by Josh Lanyon

TITLE: The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks
AUTHOR: Josh Lanyon
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 61k)
GENRE: Gay mystery erotic romance
COST: $6.99

Perry Foster comes home early from vacation to discover a dead body in his bathtub, a body that disappears as soon as he alerts everybody in the old house in which he rents his apartment. The only person who seems to believe him is the ex-Navy SEAL who lives across the hall, but stalwart Nick Reno can barely tolerate Perry, let alone provide an ally amongst the denizens of the Alston Estate…

It’s been two years since I first discovered Josh Lanyon. He quickly became one of my autobuy authors, and it’s safe to say that with the exception of one novella where one of the heroes hit a personal sore spot, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read. Not every book can be a winner, but in this particular case, it’s difficult to admit to actively disliking a story, especially when I see such universal praise for it elsewhere. But that’s the result here, as much as I hate to admit it.

The mystery is a simple take on the mysterious house staples of the genre, with a wide cast of eccentric characters. The mystery of the missing body and the subsequent events that rise from it, as Perry and Nick attempt to figure out what exactly happened, rely on odd behavior, the usual red herrings, and a need not to consider any sort of larger picture. I predicted the means of disposing the body early on, so that left little suspense. Even more regretfully, there seemed to be only one logical suspect/solution, something else I guessed far too early in the story. So without the lure of a mystery unsolved, I had to rely on the characters and the romance (since this is published by LI) to carry the rest of the story.

They did, but only up to a point. But that point ground me to such a screeching halt, and left me feeling so utterly manipulated, that any good will I had regarding Nick and Perry was lost. Both men are familiar Lanyon archetypes. Perry is slighter, prettier, seemingly delicate but with inner strength, and suffering from a physical ailment that puts him at risk (asthma), while Nick is strong, gruff, a man of action with obvious disdain for his orientation. I was okay with the obvious shades of Adrien and Jake (even the names fall in the same pattern), because over time, they both gained more personality to help differentiate them. In fact, I really liked the reluctant friendship that forged between the two men. It felt like such a departure from a lot of the m/m that I read where it’s about the sex and little else.

My problems started with the fact that it never felt like a romance for the first two-thirds of the book. That’s certainly okay with me – I read a lot of stuff that isn’t romance, and gay literature that doesn’t fall into romance – and was actually mildly intrigued that Lanyon was attempting to do a gay-for-you story. Except he wasn’t. At a point after their first sexual encounter, Perry is trying to get a better feel on Nick when Nick bluntly says, “Yes. I’m gay.” And that was the point it all ground to a halt for me. I’d had it in my head for nearly all of the book that Nick was straight, not just because of his failed marriage, but because of his constant derogatory mental attitude toward “the queer kid from across the hall.” He chastises himself for even noticing Perry’s ass, for starting to notice the kid’s looks, and so on. Maybe I missed something, but his whole attitude shouted at me, “Repressed!” Which he was, but not for the obvious reason. In hindsight, it makes sense (though I’m not going to spoil as to why), but honestly, because I’d already spent so much time in Nick’s head by that point, and witnessed both his physical and mental reactions to Perry (dismissive, paternal, contemptuous, not passionate at all and certainly not romantic), I felt incredibly manipulated. The entire reveal seemed coy to me, and ultimately ruined the rest of the story.

I know I’m in the minority on this. I actually debated writing a review at all. But in the end, I have to stand up for what works for me and what doesn’t, whether it conforms to the popular opinion or not. This certainly wouldn’t be the first thing I haven’t enjoyed that the rest of the world seems to love. I know it won’t be the last. It doesn’t put me off Lanyon in the slightest, either, because he’s still one of the most competent and consistent m/m writers out there.


7/10 – Not the usual sharpness I expect from this author, with looser POV issues and a certain coyness that bothered me

Hero #1

7/10 – Reminiscent of Adrien English, but likeable in his own right

Hero #2

7/10 – I would have liked him more if his sexuality hadn’t been treated so coyly

Entertainment value

3/10 – I guessed the mystery very early on, leaving only the romance to keep me going, but that failed me, too.

World building

9/10 – Some great atmospheric detail



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