Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday to Friday: Snowball in Hell & Josh Lanyon Reading Marathon

Last Friday I was home for the day. It was a beautiful day of rest and I decided to spend the day relaxing by reading a few of Josh Lanyon's LGBT mystery and/or crime detective stories.

Snowball in Hell (Doyle and Spain, Book 1)

I began my Lanyon marathon by picking up his latest release, Snowball in Hell. Setting 1940's Los Angeles during WW II. A Los Angeles detective and a journalist with a death wish investigate the kidnapping and murder of a wealthy man. Our journalist, Doyle, becomes the main suspect while trying to keep his sexuality a secret. Certain aspects of this story fall under the "noir" category: the setting, time period, sexual motives behind some of the actions, some of the secondary characters and incidents, and certainly the atmosphere created by Mr. Lanyon. However, the main characters -- the detective and the journalist -- are not gritty enough to make this a completely dark crime detective story.

The story is successful on different fronts, the murder mystery is well done with all those small details picked up by the writer and no threads left open ended. Red herrings are used as a device, but nothing is outlandish and everything makes sense in this story. The investigation follows a logical pattern and I liked the way it stayed in the forefront together with the developing relationship between Detective Spain and Doyle.

The relationship between Spain and Doyle is based on mutual attraction, suspicion and fear at first. Doyle seems to "fall" fast and hard for Spain, while Spain on the other hand takes longer to own up to the attraction. Surpringly, although he's a widower and has never had a "relationship" with a man, Spain is also the one with the coolest head. Mr. Lanyon portrays a self-destructive Doyle who can't come to terms with his sexuality and the limitations it places in his life, and whose suffering is heart wrenching in this story. There's no real "resolution" to this relationship in the end, although Mr. Lanyon leaves it on a positive note that I'm sure he'll address in the follow-up books in the series.

Where I thought the novel was less successful was in its portrayal of secondary characters. They are not well defined and felt more like outline drawings that lacked shading and depth. I'm sure there will be further development for the recurring characters in this series and look forward to that. In summary I think this is another solid beginning by Mr. Layon to a series that is rich in atmosphere with a fascinating couple as central characters. Grade B

Dangerous Ground (Dangerous Ground, #1)

I went on to read Dangerous Ground, a contemporary thriller romance by Mr. Lanyon. Now this one was a bit of a surprise and I thought it was bit different from other books I've read by this author. The two main characters are investigators that stumble into a crime scene while camping out. The story takes place entirely on a mountain as the two main characters try to resolve their personal problems while trying to avoid getting killed by the villains. I enjoyed the different setting and some of the thrilling action, and there is a rather erotic scene in a hot spring that was quite steamy. However, neither the characters nor romance really caught or kept my attention and I didn't enjoy it as much as other books I've read by this author. Grade C

The French Have a Word

I continued my marathon by reading the short story, The French Have a Word. A man is in France and meets an old friend who during his young adulthood was his bodyguard. Trust. That's basically what this little short story is all about. Trust and love. This story is very short and not quite as satisfying or complete a read as the rest of Mr. Lanyon's works (short stories) have been for me. Grade C

Slings and Arrows (Petit Morts, #2)

And I finished the day with another solid by picking up Slings and Arrows. This novella by Mr. Lanyon is set in a college campus and all the players are college students going through big changes in their lives. The story takes place during the Valentine Day holiday and it involves a stalker.

The main character is a young man who is making decisions about his life that don't necessarily mesh with that of his old roommate or friends. His career goals have changed and that unsettles some of his friends. Now the man that he's attracted to is also not one that his friends like either. This man's personality is not overly attractive or easily understood by his peers. I liked the way these characters were portrayed. The youth and the passion, plus the doubts and lack of confidence that go along with that youth, were all captured quite nicely by Mr. Lanyon. Grade B

I had such a wonderful Friday with Mr. Lanyon's books that I picked up a few more on Saturday, but that's another post. :)

10 comments:

  1. Hils,

    You sure did go on a Lanyon marathon! WOW!

    I still haven't read Somebody Killed His Editor. I bought it in print on one of my book shopping sprees in Toronto last summer and it's still in my TBR. Although lately I've been craving a re-read of the Adrien English Mysteries Series. LOL

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  2. I like snowball in hell! That is great! Thanks for sharing this!...Daniel

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  3. @Hils - I started reading Snowball in Hell today (I'm 14% in so far), so I skipped that part of your review as I wasn't sure if there were spoilers. I love the 40s and so far am enjoying the book. I haven't read Dangerous Ground, but it has an interesting sounding premise. Question - are the characters both gay or is this a GFY? I thought the author usually wrote the former, but wasn't sure with Dangerous Ground as it sounds like the characters have been friends/partners for a while...

    And I look forward to hearing what else you bought for Saturday :0

    @Indigene - I was lucky enough to win both Holmes & Moriarity books from the author over Christmas and devoured them. Somebody Killed His Editor is great!

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  4. @orianna - Everyone who has read Somebody Killed His Editor raves about it. I haven't read one bad thing about the book yet. And now there's a second book, I must move this up on the list of to reads. Thanks Orianna.

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  5. Indi, it was such a pleasure to spend my Friday reading Lanyon! I actually picked up 2 other books Saturday morning and finished those before going on to other authors. :) You MUST read Somebody Killed His Editor soon! Kit, my second favorite character by Lanyon, is in that book.

    Daniel, I'm so glad you also enjoyed reading Snowball in Hell. :)

    Orannia, enjoy Snowball in Hell. I loved the "atmosphere."
    RE: Dangerous Ground. Both characters are gay, no GFY. And yes, the characters have been partners for a long time, and although both are gay, they've never been personally involved with each other.

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  6. Sounds like the perfect day!

    Dangerous Ground (and its two sequels) are actually amongst my favourite Lanyon novellas. Then again, I'm a sucker for friends to lovers (+ angst) ;-)

    I'm impressed by how Josh Lanyon gets the historical atmosphere/voice right, but I have to admit my faves are still his contemporary stories.

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  7. Isn't it great for you that Mr Lanyon is such a prolific author! LOL.

    Hmmmm, The Petit Morts series is one that I've been thinking of trying :P

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  8. Li, I have the second book in the DG series in my TBR and hope to enjoy it too. I agree! I love Lanyon's contemporaries, and frankly I think he creates a great the atmosphere weather in a historical or a contemp. It's the one thing I love about all his books -- he transports you to the spot. :)

    Nath, lol... yeah! I still have lots to books to read and enjoy.

    I'm also getting the rest of The Petit Morts series at one point or another. I need to begin with the first one. :P

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  9. WRT Dangerous Ground - thank you. Good to know. And I still want to read the books :)

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  10. Orannia, great! I'll probably read the second book to see if I like it better than the first. :)

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