John's Reviews > This Rough Magic

This Rough Magic by Josh Lanyon
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's review
Apr 29, 11

bookshelves: gay, mystery
Read from April 27 to 29, 2011

A fine mystery where potential solution appears, dancing alluringly just out of reach, only to be replaced by another. The strength of the book, lies in the tight style in which it's written. Nothing seems gratuitous; even red herrings serve to enhance our understanding of a character or help evoke the feel of the period. A well told story which knows where it's going, even if the reader hasn't quite worked it all out. Free from gimmickry and full of wry humor. There's also a terrific cast of characters who, for all their faults and flaws are each in their own way endearing. If it were a film most of the supporting cast would be famous character actors from the 30s or 40s. Mad as hatters.

The central characters, Neal and Brett are as endearing as they are credible. Endearing because for their faults, they both seem genuinely good men. Credible because we get a glimpse of their complexity. As we read they surprise us; as they get acquainted they surprise each other.

One of the hardest balances to strike in period fiction is to allow characters to come to life to the modern reader while remaining true to their own context. This Rough Magic strikes it well. Compared to Better Angel (written in 1933), you'll find Neal and Brett a little less stilted and steeped in Oscar Wilde than Kurt and David, but not out of place. It considerably strengthens the period feel.

The mystery will drive a reader through the first time; but the richness of the characters makes the book worth re-reading.
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