Series: Adrien English Mysteries, Books 1 & 2
Rating: 4 Stars
Monumental Start of an Excellent Series
Containing the first two books of the Adrien English mystery series, Fatal Shadows and A Dangerous Thing, this compilation introduces the beloved (deservedly so) story of Adrien English, book seller and mystery writer, a gay man comfortable with his sexuality but almost tragically likely to stumble upon or become involved in any murder that occurs anywhere near him. Along with the ubermanly LAPD detective Jake Riordan - a man wedged so far back into the closet that his soul's a little moth-eaten, Adrien doggedly pursues his curiosities down dangerous paths to crime-solving conclusions.
In Fatal Shadows we meet Adrien, earnest store owner of the Cloak and Dagger, a rare and collectible book store, when the police come knocking on his door to inform him that one of his best friends since childhood has been brutally slain...and judging from the cops' reactions, they believe that Adrien is responsible. Soon Adrien is getting anonymous attention of the dark and scary sort and he's racing around, trying to figure out who killed his friend, because the cops just don't seem to be looking in any other direction but his. Though, to be honest, Adrien doesn't necessarily mind Jake Riordan looking his way, so long as it's not with the intent of dragging him off to a jail cell. And Jake, closeted and self-hating though he may be, is looking...
And he continues to look, even into A Dangerous Thing. But lately, that's all Jake is doing - looking. He's nowhere near even peeking out of that closet yet, or at least, that's what Adrien thinks, and after being blown off for several late night dinners and visits, Adrien has had enough and decides to get out of town for awhile. Under the auspices of getting some work on his second novel done, Adrien heads out of Sonora and heads to his deceased grandmother's old house, a house he inherited and has had cared for in the years since her demise. When he pulls into the drive of the house after fleeing Jake...er...relocating for creative stimulation...his headlights brush past something that makes Adrien slam on the brakes of his car and nearly stops his heart. A very dead body. On his property. Oh dear. Soon enmeshed in a mystery that hearkens back over a century, as well as dealing with more cop suspicion and an acre or so of a very illegal substance being grown on his property, Adrien sets out to find out exactly what's going on - and detective Riordan isn't far behind when Adrien ends up coshed on the head and concussed. It seems Jake just can't stop trying to protect Adrien from ending up dead. That's progress...right??
I love Josh Lanyon and I've become a nearly rabid fan of his writing - which never disappoints. I'm totally enthralled with the relationship between Adrien English and the very reticent Jake Riordan and can't wait to continue along their journey. As always, I'm consistently impressed with the smooth style and intelligence that Lanyon brings to his works. They are always a pleasure to read for the wit, intellect, and humor he breathes into his plot, characters, and situations. I have to admit, though, I'm not always totally thrilled with the way that Adrien tends to make some really questionable decisions (that border on suicidal occasionally) and I'm still not convinced that Jake is all that nice a guy (but then again, I'm not sure he's supposed to be right now).
Neither title quite crests the peak that would lift them to a truly five-star read for me. Fatal Shadows gets closer than A Dangerous Thing, though. That's absolutely no fault of the author at all. Mysteries are simply not my preferred genre of reading...or should I say 'straight' mysteries aren't. I like my thrillers with a bit of mystery, my adventure with a bit of mystery, my romance with a bit of mystery, etc. Straight mysteries are harder for me to truly embrace because I don't always buy into the characters motivations for solving them. For example, while I can understand Adrien's motivation in Fatal Shadows, I just don't understand why he was so driven to solve the mysteries in A Dangerous Thing, or what motivates him to continue even when it turns dangerous (that's why I preferred the first book to the second). It's a problem I have with all mysteries containing a protagonist whose job does not depend on solving said mystery. I don't understand the rampant curiosity and risky behavior just for the sake of solving it. This is not a critique of Lanyon's series or Lanyon as an author - it's actually more of a compliment. I read mystery novels few and far between because of that preference, but I'm totally jonesing for more of the Adrien English series. It's just that good. I'm a die-hard fan and will be continuing the series as soon as I can.