When I first read this blurb to this book, I thought it might be a comedy. The blurb has a light tone to it and the middle paragraph which details allWhen I first read this blurb to this book, I thought it might be a comedy. The blurb has a light tone to it and the middle paragraph which details all the various characters that the hero encounters in the book made it sound like one of those mad-cap races against time to prove the hero’s innocence. Therefore I was surprised to discover that there is very little comedy in Memory of Darkness. It’s a dark book, with dark themes and an initially very unlikable first person narrator.
The book opens with Johnny Wager (or Wager as he is known) picking up a twink called Bunny at a parade. They go to a ‘pay by the hour’ hotel and proceed to, well, F**k like bunnies (if you’ll pardon the pun). Whilst they are in the middle of this the door bursts open and masked men storm into the room and cold clock Wager. When Wager wakes up Bunny has been killed (in not a nice way – the squeamish amongst you may wish to skip this description), the cops are on their way and Wager is covered in Bunny’s blood. Wager then takes fright, escapes the room and spend the rest of the book trying to avoid the cops (and his son) and prove his innocence.
How you view this book will depend entirely on your feelings for Johnny Wager. He’s a narcissistic, drifter of a man who lives on the edge of what is considered lawful. In the course of the book he involves himself in several criminal activities including dealing drugs and stealing cars. He is also a self confessed loser having married young before realising he was gay and fathering a child who he then rarely saw and since then has drifted through life getting into trouble and never holding a job down for any length of time. He’s also a coward who thinks of nothing but himself. This wouldn’t have been so bad were it not for the amount of self-pitying drivel that he comes out with. He (thankfully) doesn’t make excuses for his own actions but he does whinge on about them constantly, telling the reader how he wished he’d been a better father, wished he could straighten out, wished he could settle down, wished he wasn’t such a whore, etc, etc. By the time I’d got part way through the book I wanted to smack Wager round the back of his head and tell him to pull himself together.
You may be wondering why, since I have an obvious dislike of the main character, I didn’t grade this book lower. Well, fortunately Wager manages to redeem himself by the end, so that I actually rather liked him by the time the book finishes. He makes a concerted effort to try and mend relations with his son (who is now a policeman) and he goes through a period of extreme remorse when his actions lead to a horrific event (which I won’t go into here as it would be a major spoiler). Wager is also a victim of the redeeming power of the love of a good man when he meets Tyler, the marine turned porno-film maker from the blurb. These three events mean that Wager spends the latter part of the book reflecting on his life and rather than whinging about it, he sets about trying to better himself (with more or less positive results). A complete turn-around in character would have been completely unrealistic, but at least by the end there’s a glimmer of hope for Wager which made him much easier to like.
I have to admit that without the presence of Tyler, I’m not sure I would have liked his book. He lifts it out of the darkness and makes Wager a better man. Tyler is actually the opposite to Wager. He is good and honest. He’s an ex-marine which gives him integrity and hero status. He runs a porno film company which makes good money for him but also gives him and Wager a little common ground with the seedier side of life. Tyler is trusting and willing to give second chances. Most importantly, though, Tyler is able to look past Wager’s outwardly tough exterior and see a man who is starved of any affection and, by being openly affectionate towards Wager, Tyler is able to break through that toughness. The best scenes for me were those when Tyler and Wager were alone together as they showed the reader the sort of man Wager could become given the chance.
There are a number of secondary characters in Memory of Darkness, all of who are well rounded and beliveable – especially the character of Hyacinth who flits the line between someone who can be trusted or not. However, far and away the most important of these secondary characters is LA. PA Brown has an obvious love for this city and we are taken all over its various, different streets and neighbourhoods. The city is alternately beautiful and terrible; peaceful and riotous; safe and dangerous. The city provides not only a backdrop and a location for the events to take place, but also a reflection of the characters who live there, so Tyler lives in affluence, safe in his expensive house whereas Wager is effectively homeless and spends much time sleeping in grubby rooms.
I said at the beginning that this is a dark novel. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, especially as many of the characters are either morally corrupt or ambiguous. Wager is difficult to like and some of the things that happen in the book are violent and bloody. Despite this Memory of Darkness is engaging, the characters realistic, the setting vivid and the story well paced with many gripping action sequences interspersed with quieter reflective moments. Thus I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it....more
I have to admit that I'm a bit nervous writing this review. In fact, I've been putting off reviewing this book. Not because the book was awful, compleI have to admit that I'm a bit nervous writing this review. In fact, I've been putting off reviewing this book. Not because the book was awful, completely the opposite, in fact. It's not often that I come across a book that I liked so much that it merits more than my standard 'Excellent' grade. I can probably list the ones I've read this year on one hand, but this book of murder, secrecy, friendship, love and the shady world of BDSM clubs was just so wonderfully written, that I hope that I can do justice to it in this review.
The Elegant Corpse begins with a murder and a very personal one at that for Detective Roger Corso. Someone has left a 25 year old mummified corpse on his living room sofa. This gruesome discovery leads Roger and his partner Mary Anne to several members of an elite BDSM club. A club which Roger is secretly a member, leading to a conflict of interest as he strives to keep his private life a secret, protect the confidentiality of the club members and solve the murder. It's a race against time as the bodies start to pile up, all with symbols linking the corpses to the BDSM lifestyle. Into this comes Sean, the brother of the man left on Roger's sofa who wants to help with the investigation. Roger sees in Sean hidden submissive tendencies which call to his dominant nature but Roger is still grieving the death of his previous lover and doesn't want to compromise his investigation further by getting involved with 'a person of interest'.
Thematically there is a lot packed into this book. The overarching theme is that of the murder investigation. This side of police work was portrayed in a very realistic way with the bulk of Roger and Mary Anne's time spent searching the internet, making phone calls, interviewing suspects and trawling through piles of paperwork. It was so refreshing to see a police mystery where they actually did more than swan around chasing the bad guys. Every clue is painstakingly followed up and meticulously documented. I found it amusing that Mary Anne is shown to love this type of work and as a pair the two detectives have an obvious love of their job, despite the late hours and the tedious nature of following up leads.
The second theme is that of Roger's BDSM lifestyle. He is a member of a club and several scenes in the book are set in that club and give the reader a detailed look at what takes place. I found this theme absolutely fascinating. I've never really understood the appeal of BDSM, but this book showed me clearly how, when it is done well, the experience can be breathtaking. The way that the subs are described during and after a 'scene', the careful work of the Doms the use of the different tools to achieve that higher state that transcends pain and the sense of pride in 'performing' well all combined to show me that BDSM is so much more than a bit of spanking or being tied up. As the scenes set in the club are very detailed, this may not appeal to all readers, but I'd urge you not to be put off the book because of this aspect. I didn't find the BDSM scenes to be gratuitous but actually necessary in giving me a greater understanding of Roger's character and what drives him to be a Dom (or Master as it's called here). Alongside the club scene is Roger's relationship with other club members or men who have been involved in the BDSM lifestyle. The way that many of these older men, especially Roger's old mentor, Jay, talk about BDSM as though it is a dying art, gave the book a great sense of nostalgia. This comes across very strongly when Roger and Jay discuss the days before AIDS (or the plague as they call it) and Jay's old records and photographs of what they consider to be the heyday of BDSM in the early 80's just adds to that nostalgic feel.
The third theme in the book is that of Roger and Sean's relationship. Theirs is a relationship based, at first, on friction. Roger's naturally controlling, calm nature clashes with Sean's impetuous, excitable character. As the book progresses so does their understanding of each other. Sean is curious but also frightened by the BDSM lifestyle and the scenes where Roger slowly initiates Sean were a mix of tender and beautiful. There's also quite an age gap between them and I liked how that was addressed and not just dismissed. One part of their relationship which affected me greatly was in Roger's admiration of Sean's skin. He is constantly looking at it, commenting on the texture, colour and possible feel of the skin.
He was white across the chest and lower back. Smooth, butter cream skin and lightly defined muscles on his arm and belly. The painter pants he wore were rolled down on top so the trail of strawberry hair dipping from his navel could be seen in front and the swell of his high butt cheeks showed as he turned to pick up his shirt from where it hung over the chair.
These descriptions were so sensual and yet told the reader much about Roger and his love of BDSM, of observing and inflicting pain on skin to see the changes in tone. It was such a simple thing to include in the book but said volumes about Roger.
There were so many other things that I liked about this book that I could go on for pages. The plotting was tight and the characters, including the secondary characters were complex. Mary Anne was one of the few female characters I've come across in m/m who wasn't a stereotype. She added a lot of humour to the book, but was also well rounded enough to be a realistic portrayal of a partner and friend to Roger. The story was very serious in tone and packed so full, I've only scratched the surface with this review, and yet wasn't too busy. The mystery was complicated enough that I didn't guess the murderer but simple enough that I could follow the clues along with the detectives. If you don't like books based around BDSM, then I suggest that you make an exception with The Elegant Corpse. I was thoroughly delighted with this book, so much so that I can't think of one negative thing to say about it. What I will say is that this book is a must read and I can't recommend it highly enough. ...more
This story of ghostly goings on in England begins with everyone's perfect fantasy. Our hero Michael receives a phone call from a London solicitors telThis story of ghostly goings on in England begins with everyone's perfect fantasy. Our hero Michael receives a phone call from a London solicitors telling him that he's a beneficiary in a will and that he has to travel to England straight away. After travelling in first class splendour, Michael arrives in London to be told he is the new owner of a stately home and has millions of pounds willed to him by a man Michael has never heard of, on the understanding that he continue to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a man named Jonathan which occurred during the 1940s. Michael has been plagued by very explicit erotic dreams where he seduced by a man named Jonathan. Things grow even more eerie when Michael meets a man named Jonathan who looks like his dream lover and the man who disappeared all those years ago.
There were a number of things which I liked about this book. The main one being the contrast in personalities between Michael and Jonathan. I liked Michael who quickly adapts to his new situation and looks upon life quite optimistically. At 26 he's still young enough to have a naive, trusting nature as can be seen in the way he has allowed his ex-boyfriend Steve to take advantage of him and by his quick acceptance of Jonathan into his life. He also has a lively sense of the ridiculous, spending his first few days in England poking gentle fun at the very English way of life that he encounters. Jonathan has a more subdued nature than Michael but is also very passionate. It is Jonathan who takes the initiative when the men first meet and Jonathan who advises caution throughout the book, especially when Michael gets impatient and puts himself in danger. The two men fall in love very quickly - in the space of a few days - but this actually worked well within the context of the story. There's a sense that the two men are fated to be together and that, coupled with the erotic dreams that they have about each other before they meet, made it believable that they would fall hard and fast for each other in a short space of time. The sex scenes between the men were as erotic as the dreams with an added tenderness which was lovely to read. The only downside to the relationship is that because they get together so quickly, and also because there is a sense that they were 'meant to be' there isn't actually any romantic tension between them. Even any arguments are resolved quickly - a little too quickly perhaps - and so although I was happy that Michael and Jonathan were so perfect for each other, any drama in the book comes from the mystery rather than the romantic relationship.
Depending on your views of this matter the ghost story could either be seen as a beautiful, tragic story of fated lovers torn apart by a greedy jealous man or as pure hokum. My views veered a little between the two. The romantic in me liked the idea that Jonathan and Michael were destined to be with each other and that their relationship mirrored that of Jonathan and his lover in the past. On the other hand the tale of warlocks and dastardly goings on was a little over the top, especially as I never really understood exactly why it was necessary to involve Michael. There was far too much coincidence in play for many of the scenes involved in the mystery - some of which was believable and some stretched my incredulity a little.
The parts which worked best in the book were those involving Michael finding his feet in his new role as 'Lord of the Manor'. I liked the secondary characters of the butler Matthew and his wife, and the way that Michael attempted to subvert the class distinctions within the household. It provided a little light relief to the story and allowed the reader to gain insight into Michael's character. This was also done through Michael's relationship with his brother where we get to see him relaxing and joking around.
I think there was only one part of the story which didn't work particularly well and that was the parts involving Steve, Michael's ex-boyfriend. I didn't feel that his role was particularly important and didn't actually bring anything of value to the story - except perhaps to show how trusting Michael is, which is shown in other areas of the book as well. The book was quite long and I did feel that Steve could have been cut from the story entirely and it wouldn't really have changed anything about the plot or interfered with any character development.
Overall, Time After Time was an interesting read with likable characters and a creepy ghost story. JP Bowie always has a lively written style and he doesn't disappoint with this book. I'd recommend Time After Time as a great book to read for those who like a mixture of creepy, Halloween chills and sweet, tender romance....more
This clever little mystery certainly kept me guessing, but I found that the characterisation was sacrificed a little in favour of trickery and plot diThis clever little mystery certainly kept me guessing, but I found that the characterisation was sacrificed a little in favour of trickery and plot diversions.
The novella begins with a funeral. The deceased being the father of Brayden Bainbridge and Addison (sonny) Satterwight who died of acute kidney failure brought on by excess of drinking. However, all is not as it seems and soon the police are knocking on the door of the exclusive country club now owned and run by the brothers. It seems that Reginald Bainbridge did not die of alcohol consumption, but rather a lethal dose of anti-freeze which had been placed in his drink. The two brothers are astounded and help the police as much as they can. The two detectives, Morgan and Walker, then set out to discover who exactly would want Reginald Bainbridge dead.
I said at the start that this is a clever mystery and it was. The police and the reader are led up and down the garden path until the startling revelations at the end. It was almost impossible to work out the clues so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. Mystery fans will not be disappointed.
The book is written in the 3rd person omniscient so we don’t ever get the thoughts of the characters, only their actions, gestures and facial expressions. This had two effects: Firstly we never know whether anyone is telling the truth, or if they are trying to hide something and, secondly, it produced a distance between me, the reader, and the characters. As a result, I felt separated from any emotions that the characters might feel and never really felt that I got to grips with any of them. I know that this was a deliberate act on the part of the author as the whole mystery would fall apart were we to know any of the internal thoughts of any of the characters, but I did then feel more of an observer to the book rather than a participant. The whole feeling was as though I was watching a well crafted play being performed and the constant references to chess linked to that idea. Each character had a role to play in the drama and were moved around on the ’stage’ or ‘chessboard’ accordingly.
This separation between myself and any emotion in the characters meant that the sub-plot of the romance between Addison and his lover Micah fell flat. They acted for most of the book like f**k buddies rather than two men in love. Although there were a few hints and clues that they may have been more to each other than that, the main interaction between the pair was sex and so I was rather surprised when it turned out to be more than just ‘friends with benefits’. I actually didn’t really like Addison very much either. It would be difficult to go into much detail as to why without giving away too many spoilers, but he was far too smug and clever for his own good and I didn’t like the way he took advantage of nearly everyone and every situation in the book.
Despite the lack of connection between myself and the characters, I would still recommend My Brother’s Keeper. I greatly enjoyed watching the mystery unfold and felt a lot of sympathy for the two police officers as they battled against polite obstruction from the brothers in their quest for the truth. This was a great short read which I would recommend to those who enjoy a good mystery. ...more
To be honest I'm a little nervous as to whether what I'm going to write now will actually do this book justice. It was that good. So good, in fact, thTo be honest I'm a little nervous as to whether what I'm going to write now will actually do this book justice. It was that good. So good, in fact, that I may run out of superlatives. So good, that my mind disappeared into 'book world' and I spent every single spare moment reading. So good, that even when I had to do pesky real life things like cooking I was still thinking about the book, wondering what was going to happen next or mulling over the characters, their merits and their flaws.
At the beginning of the The Bones of Summer everything is going well for Craig. He's happy with where he lives and is good friends with the two women he shares a house with. He likes his modelling job, even if he's not been able to get on as an actor. Best of all, is that he gets a phone call from a guy he met a couple of months ago, Paul, who wants to get together and maybe start something. Things are on the up for Craig and he's happy to go with it and forget all about the terrible things that happened to him when he ran away from his Devon home seven years before.
Unfortunately for Craig, life has a way of kicking you in the teeth when you least expect it. Just after his first date (and night) with Paul, he receives a letter from an old neighbour and friend in Devon telling him that his father is missing. This starts off a chain of events which forces Craig to return to Devon and his past and confront all that he was attempting to forget. Paul is a Private Detective and offers to help Craig investigate his past. This then impacts on their tentative relationship.
There are two main themes running through this book. The first, and most obvious theme is that of facing up to your past. Craig ran away from his abusive Father at the age of seventeen and has spent the intervening years trying to avoid thinking of his childhood and the events which led to him leaving. The past, as they say, has a way of catching up with you and I found it admirable in Craig that he faces up to that once he realises that he can't stay in hiding forever. His reaction to going back to Devon was a mixture of heartbreaking and confusing for the reader. Craig himself has large gaps in his memory and often reacts to his surroundings in a very emotional way that even he can't understand, let alone explain to Paul. It takes time and a painful stripping away of the layers before Craig is even able to discover what happened. The reader is taken along with that emotional rollercoaster and I found that I had to be very patient and wait, like Craig does, before I got answers to the many questions that I had as I was reading.
Paul too has a past. He has suffered tragedy and betrayal in his life which you would think would make him the ideal person to help Craig through this difficult time. However, things are never that simple which leads to the second theme: That of secrets and lies. Both men have secrets from each other. In one sense this is understandable; they have just met each other and are starting a tentative journey on the road to love. Neither one of them want to share their past with each other yet. Craig doesn't want to scare Paul off and Paul has his own reasons to which we are not privy. It did annoy me that Paul often accuses Craig of lying to him, when, rather hypocritically, he never comes wholly clean about his own past. In fact, I found myself getting cross with Paul quite a lot throughout the book. On one hand he offers to help Craig and even spends a lot of time supporting him through this terrible time; but on the other hand he uses quite brutal methods to force Craig to open up and speak about his past. Methods such as the use of emotional blackmail by withdrawing his approval or acting coldly towards him or blowing hot and cold so that Craig is confused as to where he stands in their relationship. I wasn't sure I liked Paul, but that didn't mean he wasn't a terrific character. He was - as is any character who draws such a response from me.
If you are thinking that this sounds like a very angst filled book, then you will be right. Emotions run high throughout the novel. Both men are strong characters who are dealing in their own way with distressing things that have happened to them. Sometimes they break down in tears; sometimes they clash horribly and say dreadful things to each other; sometimes they make love fiercely in order to forget; sometimes they close up and suffer in silence. These were complex men and I was never really sure how they would react at any time. It was this unpredictability that had me on the edge of my seat throughout the book. What a thrilling ride!
Having said that, the book wasn't all doom and gloom and what saved it from being too heavy going was the internal voice of Craig. He had a typical British self-depreciating sense of humour and a ready wit, which brought out humour in the direst of circumstances. An example of this was his self-created list of 'rules for gay men'.
But he’d better not forget Gay Rule Number One: At least find out a name and a job before you do the business.
Craig also has a great optimism about him. He always tries to focus on the good, even if he does worry about the bad things which are happening to him. This idealistic cheerfulness was appealing and coupled with Craig's sarcastic humour often gets him into trouble, but did help to lighten the feel of the book.
I've only touched the surface of what was so great about this book. It wasn't just the realistic characterisation that made this book a fantastic read. The settings were so ordinary, so domestic, such as kitchens, bedrooms, an office, a club, and yet terrible things happened in those settings so that their mere ordinariness added to the chill down the spine. The plotting was tight, with each clue, each answer, being revealed slowly until a breathtaking, frantic, thrilling conclusion.
Have I waxed lyrical enough about this book? I don't think I can. All I can do is recommend that you read The Bones of Summer and although I'm giving this my top grade of 'Excellent', this book goes beyond even that, beyond recommendation to a plea - if you like mystery; if you like character driven books; if you like reading compulsively, unable to part with the story for even a short time; then you must read this book. ...more
Maloney's Law is the book previous to The Bones of Summer. One of the frustrations I had about The Bones of Summer is that I never really understood tMaloney's Law is the book previous to The Bones of Summer. One of the frustrations I had about The Bones of Summer is that I never really understood the character of Paul Maloney. He seemed such a private person and yet also had baffling mood swings. I now realise that many of my questions would have been answered if I had read Maloney's Law first.
The book is taken from the first person point of view of small time private investigator Paul. At the beginning we learn several things about this complex man. Firstly he had an affair and fell in love with a married man, Dominic, three years before the start of the book, which ended badly leaving Paul broken hearted. This led to Paul having a nervous breakdown. Secondly, he has a long term friendship with his assistant Jade, who helped him through his breakdown and thirdly that he has an uncanny ability to keep track of dates, almost down to the hour:
As he’s the last man I’ve slept with, it must be three years, four months, and one week since I had sex at all. At least with someone else in the room. I wonder if that makes me unusual.
Dominic has called Paul out of the blue and asked him to take on a case for his company. Dominic owns a very successful IT company and he is thinking of merging with another company based in Egypt. He wants Paul to discover if there is anything underhand going on that would affect the merger. On the surface this seems like a simple job. Paul needs to do a bit of digging, travel to Cairo and dig some more and then bring a report back to Dominic. However, things hot up when firstly a dead woman turns up outside Dominic's offices and then Paul is threatened and an attempt is made on his life whilst staying in Cairo.
I said earlier that Paul is an complex character. In fact it's difficult to put down in words all the various aspects of Paul's character. He's a man who is very much alone in his life. He never sees his father (for reasons I won't go into here as it would be spoilerish) and so the relationship with his mother is strained; he hasn't had a lover since Dominic; and he spends his time either working or alone in his house. His only friend is Jade and theirs is a delightful friendship full of love and laughter. They have an affection for each other which is shown in the way they joke with one another or share information and it is obvious that Paul holds Jade in deep regard. Jade's family also welcome Paul even if Jade's parents are a little perturbed over the exact nature of their friendship. Alongside Paul's relationships (or lack thereof) is his emotional state which seems to constantly hang in the balance. He spends most of the book barely holding onto his emotions, fighting to keep an impassive front in the face of the return of Dominic into his life and the wonderful/terrible memories that brings. When something happens to tip that status quo, Paul is unable to cope and goes into an emotional meltdown which was entirely in keeping with what I would have expected from his behaviour at the beginning of the book.
However, my favourite part of Paul's character were the little quirks given to him by the author. I've already mentioned the date keeping, but there were other things as well. Paul's love of whisky and the way he ruthlessly rations it out (hinting that he may once have had a serious problem with alcohol) is another great quirk sending him into rhapsodies of eloquence when he finally succombs and drinks some:
Last of all is The Macallan, rarely opened, its rich toffee glow hinting of secrets not yet understood, not yet known. Yes, this is the one. As I release it, the smell of new leather and dark Spanish sherry settles around me, and I pour a double measure, more, into my waiting glass. The golden liquid swings round, marking its place, waiting for me, calling.
He also has a number of amusing 'PI rules' which he brings out every so often, usually when he has broken one of them "Second rule of PI work: don’t employ someone who’s moral".
The story itself is a breathtaking ride from start to finish. Paul's tenacity leads him further and further into danger as he uncovers clues leading to the death of the young woman and the connection to her and the company Dominic wants investigating. Along the way there is action, excitement, tragedy, betrayal, pain and heartbreak until Paul is the only thing standing between corruption and justice. Not only does Paul have to face up to some of his greatest fears he also makes discoveries about those he loves the most. By the end of the book Paul has been put thoroughly through the wringer - as has the reader - and had his world turned completely upside down. It's no wonder then that he seemed so distant and so unwilling to get involved with Craig's problems in The Bones of Summer which is set only a few months after the end of this book.
I feel that I ought to point out that whilst there is some sex in this book, it is not a romance. There is hope though, especially as Paul meets Craig towards the end of the book. Maloney's Law is a mystery, and a great one at that which kept me guessing right to the end, but not romance.
Once again Anne Brooke has produced a book which is high in emotional intensity and yet never strays into hysteria. Her descriptions of setting, character and situation all combine to make Maloney's Law into an unforgettable read. I highly recommend that you read this book - preferably before The Bones of Summer - as you won't be disappointed. Grade: 'Excellent'....more
Don't Look Back is a very different story to the other two books which have been recently released by Josh Lanyon. Its tone is quieter, more reflectivDon't Look Back is a very different story to the other two books which have been recently released by Josh Lanyon. Its tone is quieter, more reflective and the story mirrors that tone in that most of the conflict comes from the lead character's internal confusion, rather than external forces (although there is a bit of that as well). You may also be shocked to learn that there isn't one single murder in this novella. Not one.
The book begins in a dramatic fashion with our hero, Peter, stumbling towards a house with blood pouring out of his head. He passes out once he gets inside and awakens in hospital with no recollection of who he is or how he got in hospital. Sitting by his bed is Detective Griffin, who tells Peter that he has been accused of robbery. Peter is a museum curate and several costly pieces have been stolen from the museum, including a valuable mural which was taken the night that Peter was attacked. The book follows Peter's attempt to regain his memory and discover who is stealing from the museum.
Although this story is told in the third person, we only get Peter's point of view. This allows us to experience all his frustrations and confusion over what is happening to him, but also means that the reader experiences a little doubt as to whether Peter is telling us the whole truth. His amnesia also casts some doubt on whether he could be the one committing the crime because, although he believes within himself that he's not capable of stealing, he doesn't remember whether he has or not. The use of the amnesia in this context was an interesting way to keep the mystery going, even though I'd pretty much guessed who was responsible before the end.
Another interesting way that the amnesia was used is in the characterisation of Peter. He can't remember what sort of person he is and can only rely on what he knows instinctively about himself. This means that Peter is actually freed from many of the constraints he had previous to the amnesia and is able to act in a way that is more true to his personality than he had previously. One telling scene is when Peter arrives at his house after leaving the hospital and wanders from room to room looking at his things, his clothes and the life he obviously led before the attack.
He tossed the shirt into the laundry, opened the closet, and blinked. His clothes hung in two neatly laundered and pressed rows -- grouped by style and color. Could he really be this organized? It didn’t seem…natural.
He selected a brown polo shirt and a pair of stone-colored chinos. He didn’t appear to own a pair of simple Levi’s.
Peter is even surprised by his own appearance when he looks in the mirror. It suggests that Peter has long lived a life which warred with his inner personality. The amnesia allows him to break free of that - to begin again, as it were, and make a fresh start with his life and with his friends. This was an unusual twist on the amnesia theme, which tends to involve people trying to get their memories back so they can return to how they were, not to rediscover themselves and move away from their previous life as Peter tries to do.
This is Peter's story and we get to experience all his highs and lows. As a result some of the other characters were not quite as well drawn as they may have been. This could be a deliberate ploy because Peter doesn't remember these people and only vaguely recalls their importance in his life, so how can they be fully rounded? Even Mike Griffin, the outwardly gruff detective is somewhat of a mystery. His motivations and past dealings with Peter are revealed slowly through the novella and only at the end do we see some of his true personality. This makes him somewhat of an enigma for most of the book.
I'm a big fan of some of Josh Lanyon's quieter, less outwardly humourous mysteries, such as Cards on the Table and Ghost of a Chance and this book can be compared favourably to those. I liked Peter and my heart ached for his situation and the confusion and helplessness he feels. I was cheering him on all the way through his period of self-discovery and subsequent re-evaluation of some of the decisions he has made in his life. Whilst the mystery elements were all present and correct, this book is really about one man's battle with himself; a battle I was all too happy to witness.
So if you're looking for flashy dialogue and Josh Lanyon's trademark wit, you may need to go elsewhere than this book as any humour within Don't Look Back is of the wry, self effacing sort. I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery which gains a grade of 'Excellent', and am happy to add this novella to the growing list of Josh Lanyon's books that I will re-read when I'm in the mood for something emotionally satisfying....more
This book begins with our hero, Perry, returning early from a disastrous holiday to find a dead man in his bathtub. After enlisting the help of our otThis book begins with our hero, Perry, returning early from a disastrous holiday to find a dead man in his bathtub. After enlisting the help of our other hero, Nick, an ex- Navy SEAL, they discover that the body has disappeared. The police don't believe Perry and neither do the other residents of the boarding house - a strange, eclectic bunch of people, usually only found in murder mysteries by authors such as Agatha Christie. Nick does believe Perry and together they try to find out what's going on, encountering more murders from past and present on the way.
What attracted me to this novel initially, was the character of Perry. He is as unlike your average m/m hero as you are likely to get. He is very slender for a start, with asthma, and he looks about 14. Lanyon constantly uses words such as 'thin', 'delicate' and 'pale' to describe him. He's idealistic, polite, naive and very sheltered in his upbringing. I liked him a lot, especially as he turned out to have a very determined personality which belies his fragile image. I got the impression that Lanyon had spent quite a bit of time thinking about Perry as he is incredibly well rounded and fleshed out - in personality, if not in physical form. As a result of this the character of Nick pales a little when next to Perry. Oh, he's got the physical presence, but I never felt that I knew him as well as I did Perry.
Lanyon's prose is as superb as ever. This time particularly in the descriptions of the setting. The house was dark, dusty, musty and damp. In a great example of pathetic fallacy (look it up, I used to teach English) the weather is constantly raining, cold and stormy. The perfect setting for murder. The murder mystery aspect gets a big thumbs-up from me as I didn't guess whodunnit. Although, as I've said in previous posts, I'm always rubbish at guessing the killer. The whole claustrophobic atmosphere in the house was spot on as was Perry's increasing fear of being watched. Very creepy.
So, was there anything I didn't like? Well, this was mainly in the romance between the two men. I felt slightly uncomfortable about the way Nick views Perry. He constantly refers to him as 'kid', much to Perry's disgust. He refers to himself as a cradle snatcher and thinks of Perry as being a boy, when in fact Perry is in his mid-twenties and only 10 years younger than Nick. This coloured their relationship slightly, especially when Nick describes his feelings at one point as 'Paternalistic'. However, things do start to change and improve by the end of the book - but I'm not going to tell you about that.
All in all, this was an absorbing read - as you can tell by my mammoth reading session. The book clipped along at a great pace and I was hooked from start to finish. I'm giving it a grade of 'excellent'. It wasn't as good as DOAPK, but it was still a fantastic book....more