Mary brought it to my attention and I finally, finally got to it! Why did I wait so long?
Lanyon begins this series with a murder mystery that had me turning the pages and racing to the end. I read it in one sitting. Fatal Shadows is chuck-full of atmosphere and at times it felt almost as if I were reading a "cozy." Although you won't find the knitting, cooking or baking theme in this book, there is a theme. You will find a circle of mystery writers, references to mystery books and authors, and of course the amateur sleuth, all of which give it that vague "cozy" feel.
I was quite taken with the setting in this book and thought Lanyon was clever in choosing Old Pasadena, California, a modern and bright place if I've ever seen one, and then endowing it with a feeling of darkness, mustiness and oldness that doesn't feel contrived. I think it's the old used book store, the alleyways, the old two story brick building where the bookstore is located and the old mystery books that Adrien sells. I could almost smell the dust on those books. Lanyon did an outstanding job of setting up both atmosphere and setting.
I really enjoyed the murder mystery and Adrien, as a sleuth, was both a crack up and quite good in his way of thinking. Adrien is a mystery writer and has a wonderful imagination; one minute he's trying to figure out whom the murderer is, in his own inimitable way, and the next minute he's just freaking out. Adrien's sexuality plays a big role in the storyline, even though this is not an erotic book or a romance. Homophobia, closeted gays and subtle prejudices are all part of the storyline.
Predictably, in this first book of the series, our main character Adrien is introduced to the reader as the main suspect in the brutal murder of his best and oldest friend Robert; a device usually used in mysteries to set up the base for a series and introduce the characters. Adrien's life is turned upside down when the police begin to investigate his life thoroughly as a murder suspect. When anonymous flower deliveries, unsigned sympathy cards with creepy poetry arrive, followed by silent phone calls in the middle of the night and other creepy events, it seems as if Adrien might've also become the main focus for the murderer. When Adrien reports these incidents, the police don't take him seriously. Desperate and afraid for his life and future, our amateur sleuth decides to go off on his own and conduct an investigation that leads to a dangerous and emotional climax.
Lanyon uses the crime investigation to deeply develop Adrien's character by delving into his past and present life. By the time Fatal Shadows ends, we are well acquainted with Adrien's life, his personality, quirks and thought process, providing an excellent base for the rest of the series. Quite a few secondary characters are introduced, multiple suspects and those who populate Adrien's life. Most are kept on the periphery and none are developed as deeply as Adrien in this installment.
I find it interesting that characters that are either downright homophobic, in the closet or just out of the closet surround Adrien, a man who is confident and comfortable with his own sexuality. Some of them wear their prejudices on their sleeve, and while some are vociferously and brutally homophobic, others are subtler in how they display their deep-seeded prejudices. In the case of the policemen conducting the criminal investigation, their initial disdain and contempt for Adrien and Robert's sexuality is palpable.
Jake Riordan, one of the two detectives investigating the murder, is the saddest of all these characters in my opinion. Lanyon develops Jake with a light a touch in this installment. However, we do get to know a few key facts about him. He's a tough cop, a "man's man" who has prejudices a straight man might have against gay men, but who leads a double life. He doesn't think of himself as gay, but has "homosexual" encounters of the "leather and BDSM" kind -- nothing touchy-feely or gay to his way of thinking. The man is deep, deep in the closet emotionally and intellectually. In Fatal Shadows, he doesn't seem conflicted about his life for most of the story; it just seems to be the way he deals. He is going to be an interesting character study.
There is no obvious set-up for the next book in the series, except for a developing attraction between Adrien and "closeted" Detective Jake Riordan. Fatal Shadows is a solid beginning to this mystery series, with excellent writing, wonderful atmosphere and setting, and excellent characterization. I look forward to reading the next installment in this series, A Dangerous Thing.
Genre: LGBT Mystery/Suspense
Series: Adrien English Mysteries
Release Date: 2007 Revised Edition
Grade: Solid B
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Anezthezea's - M/M Romance Challenge 2010