Note: Technically I’d give the book 4 ½ stars instead of 5 due to a couple places where Rice slips into present tense which is a serious pet peeve of mine. It’s an artistic choice that does nothing to add to the brief moments where he does it and, therefore, irks me to no end. But since Goodreads won’t allow ½ star ratings, and since the rest of the book was so damn good, I’m willing to give it the 5 instead of the 4.
The Moonlit Earth is Christopher Rice at his very best. Do you know the difference between a gay story and a story with prominent gay characters? Finally, after four novels, Rice has learned this important distinction. And his story is much better because of it. Indeed, watching Rice’s talent for story-telling develop over the last few years has been one of the greatest pleasures of my reading life. The majority of his flaws that I overlooked in the past have virtually disappeared in this novel. His over-reliance on queer themes and characters is gone. His characters in The Moonlit Earth are not in danger because of their sexuality any longer. It is simply a fact of who they are. It’s an important fact, but it’s not the all consuming pivotal fact that it is to some of his past characters.
His inability to tell a fully sustained narrative with believable tension, suspense, and action is gone. This was the first Christopher Rice book that I have read in which the circumstances were buyable. There are not shortcuts in The Moonlit Earth. There are no easy conclusions or convenient discoveries that solve the complex puzzle. This mystery has be painstakingly constructed so that every word uttered has weight and value and echoes back to past information; information that, at time, seemed to be meaningless. There are no throw-away lines in this book.
And through it all, Rice’s top notch story-telling and characterization continues to be at the forefront. This book kept me on my toes. Every time I thought he was going in one direction, Rice would zag the opposite way and pull the rug from beneath me. This mastery proves Rice knows his individual characters better than I thought I did. Instead of looking to tropes and character types, simply go along for the ride and revel in the knowledge that being well versed in this genre isn’t enough to prepare you for this story. This is what mystery should be! The Moonlit Earth is one of the best reads I’ve had in a long long time, and the fact that it comes from one of my favorite authors is icing on the cake.