Friday, April 23, 2010

M/M Review: Fatal Shadows (Andrien English Mysteries, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon

Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon is the first book in the Adrien English Mysteries series; a series I've been meaning to read since 2008. My friend 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

Visit Josh Lanyon here

Anezthezea's - M/M Romance Challenge 2010


  1. Oh it's been a long time I read a novel about writers. This for sure I am going to love. I actually read somewhere talking about this but forgot where I found it. Anywayz, you're the second person now that talks about this and I think that's enough for me to dive into this series. Thanks for another convincing review as always.

    When are we all Jerseyeans getting together again? ;-)

  2. I have just started getting into M/M romance, and I am sure I will fall in love with this book when I get the chance to read it!!! Thanks for the review!!! I am a new follower, so I am looking forward to reading future posts from ya!!!

  3. Jeez, I really, really, really need to get this book!! I've been meaning to read him since the beginning of the year. My library has book #2 and #3, but not #1!!! Why?!?!

    Glad you enjoyed it, Hils :D

  4. One of the really lovely things about this series is the character development. Obviously, Jake has some major growth ahead, but I also love the fact that Adrien, in a much more subtle fashion, grows along the way as well.

    You have much great reading ahead of you, Hilcia! Enjoy! :-)

  5. I read this first two books in the series earlier this year and the second one is even better. I've been waiting to pick up the next installment but I think I'll have to head over to fictionwise soon and get started.

  6. Natalie, this an excellent Gay Fiction mystery series. This first book is great. I hope you give it a try. I'm hoping we'll get together in May again! Yay!

    Lover of Romance, I hope you're enjoying the M/M Romance genre. The Adrien English Mysteries series is quite popular, and from what I understand an outstanding one. I'm glad I finally started on it. Great writing. :) Thanks for following! :D

    Nath - Awww, you should ask them to get it for you. You definitely need book 1 to get to know Adrien.

    Renee, I really enjoy mysteries and I enjoyed that aspect of this book. But, I loved the characterization, Adrien's in this book. I already read A Dangerous Thing, lol, and can tell you that I can see the slow-build for Jake is on. I'm definitely going to enjoy this one. :D

  7. Novelnelle, I just finished A Dangerous Thing too and I agree. It's a great sign for a series when the first one is a great base and then they get better & better. :) I hope you get the other ones soon, I already have the whole series, thank goodness!

  8. What I most enjoyed about Lanyon's writing in this series is that the author takes his time in the development of Jake's character. With each book we learn more and more about him. In my review of the series I referred to it as Lanyon's slow peeling back of Jake's layer. He is a complex character, as is Adrien, but we learn Adrien up front he's not hidden. I liken it to two mysteries within each book, that of the crime mystery and that of Jake.

    While I loved the series as a whole, Book #3 The Hell You Say I think is my favourite both in terms of the mystery crime and character development, followed by the final book #5 The Dark Tide.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of the series Hils.


  9. Jake as a mystery is a great way to look at it, Indi. I can't wait to see how Lanyon develops Jake. I already read the 2nd book and can see why he draws readers.

    "The Hell You Say" is next for me, can't wait to get to it!

  10. I'm so glad you liked it! The great thing about this series is that it gets better :) Are you anti-Jake? That seems to be the thing, but I'm totally in his corner...

  11. I definitely enjoyed it, Mariana. I'm just sorry I waited so long to read these books.

    I'm not anti-Jake, lol! Can't see myself going there either. In this book, I found him to be an interesting character, but a sad one with that double life and his outlook. But it only made me curious to see how Lanyon develops him further.


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