Thursday, May 25, 2006

‘The Hell You Say’ by Josh Lanyon

Reviewed by Lamia

TITLE – The Hell You Say
AUTHOR – Josh Lanyon
PRICE - $15.95 (ebook $6.00)
GENRE - Mystery
ISBN – 0-595-38512-5
PUBLISHER - iuniverse
POINT OF SALE - iuniverse

This is the third of the Adrien English books, but the first I’ve read. He’s a mild-mannered bookseller and mystery writer in Los Angeles – and one of those people to whom things just happen. Here, he’s drawn into an investigation of a series of murders linked to the occult, when his assistant, the wimpy Angus, is so scared by a series of satanic threats delivered over the telephone that he leaves town.

English’s interest soon draws the attention of the people who’ve been menacing Angus, but the discovery of a demonic symbol on his front doorstep, executed in red paint, just makes him more determined to find out what’s going on.

Lanyon creates a rich cast of characters, from English’s overbearing mother, Lisa, her prospective husband and his three daughters, to the suave Professor Snowden, for whom Angus has been working as a teaching assistant. There’s a charismatic author of horror novels and his manager, aggressive Goth girl students, an elusive Harry Potter look-alike and the disparate members of English’s Partners In Crime writers’ circle. And as he struggles to cope with keeping his business going, pursuing the investigation, and battling a continuing emotional crisis, there’s a procession of weird characters he takes on to help him in the bookshop.

But central to the whole novel is his fraught relationship with his lover, a police detective, Jake, whom he describes as ‘deeply closeted.’ As he says. ’Jake despised himself for being sexually attracted to men.’ Jake is also seeing a female cop, and the subtext to the story is his state of denial, laced with his undoubted affection for Adrien. Jake emerges as a pretty unsympathetic character, but nevertheless, this is a love story as well as a mystery, and at the end, although Adrien faces up to a future without him, nobody will be taking bets on Jake not appearing in any future Adrien English books.

And if there are any more, I for one will be in line to read them. Lanyon’s style is easy and readable. He’s actually very funny, and there’s a lightness of touch which makes this a real page-turner. He has the facility to move swiftly from scene to scene, which makes it a little episodic and choppy, but suits the style and the subject matter.

If I have any criticism, it’s that the humour can sometimes teeter on the edge of being facetious. And Adrien English is so buttoned down that there were times I was screaming in frustration on his behalf. One tiny gripe; I winced at the misuse of the word inferred – but this in self-published novel which is otherwise exemplary in its use of spelling and grammar, so really I’m just being picky here.

‘The Hell You Say’ is a well-written and sharply plotted novel, but more, it’s the closely observed characterisation, the attention to the people with the walk-on parts, the small details, which make this a pleasure to read.

RATING: 7/10

10/10 Amazon
8/10 Booksnbytes


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