Book Review: Josh Lanyon’s Fatal Shadows

Posted August 1, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Book Review: Josh Lanyon’s Fatal Shadows

Fatal Shadows


Josh Lanyon

amateur sleuth, erotica that was published by MLR Press on May 1, 2007 and has 232 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Death of a Pirate King, A Dangerous Thing, The Hell You Say, Dark Tide, Somebody Killed His Editor, Fair Game, Fair Play

First in the Adrien English Mystery series based in a bookstore in L.A.

My Take

This was good. Well, it does involve a bookstore and writers, so I may be prejudiced. I did enjoy Lanyon’s story. He created an interesting cast of characters and provides insight into a community of which few of us have experience. Cute innuendoes.

Definitely a fast read, Lanyon has provided a very complete story with reasonable background on its characters — naturally, Adrien’s background is the most complete. I suspect Lanyon is leaving Riordan’s background as part of the tease to entice us into reading A Dangerous Thing. I’ll be ordering it up as soon as I get a bit caught up.

Lanyon didn’t provide the tension I was expecting. Sure, he’s got Adrien all set up as the bad guy as far as the police are concerned, but it was just words. Obviously Adrien is unlikely to be guilty since the series is about him so it becomes more difficult to create worry amongst the readers, but I still expect to feel it. I suspect Lanyon was more concerned with portraying the gay community as regular guys while still providing a picture of the lifestyle and setting the series up than with ratcheting up any tension. Yes, there was drama. People are dying who don’t seem to have a connection. There’s Claude’s concerns about Riordan. Anger with the police for being such jerks. But Adrien’s exploring the possibilities mostly just mentions connections. He doesn’t actually do much with it. I’m not sure why Lanyon has Adrien freaking out about Gordon’s movements. What’s the deal with the middle-of-the-night phone calls?

I’m also confused about the finances. It starts off saying that Adrien is doing well with the bookstore, then the insurance policy bit comes up and it sounds as though Adrien needs the money, and then he’s offering to finance the newsletter. Nor do I understand why it’s so necessary for Claude to run.

It’s certainly a colorful story. It can’t help but be colorful with someone like Claude whom Lanyon describes as “a Southland native…[with]…a kind of gender-confused French like a Left Bank expatriate with severe memory loss”. Too funny! As far as I’m concerned, the greatest intrigue was Detective Riordan, a bisexual cop hiding his gay side. At first Lanyon describes him as having a neo-Nazi haircut which sets up one impression, but by the end of the story, that haircut takes on a whole different appearance in my mind.

If reading about gays and the gay community will bother you, don’t read it. But, you’ll be missing a fascinating little story.

The Story

It’s a pair of detectives descending upon his doorstep in the wee hours that turns Adrien’s life upside down. Seems a friend of his has been murdered and since both he and Robert are gay, they were obviously lovers and therefore Adrien must have murdered him.

Naturally, when Adrien returns to the bookstore after having lunch with Claude and finds it trashed, the cops assume he did it to throw off suspicion. Nor does the bartender’s testimony from the night before help.

Claude isn’t much help as he’s more concerned with the letters and poetry he wrote Robert. So as the police press harder, the more attractive Bruce Green’s support looks. But it’s his mother’s condolences that provide the vital clue.

The Characters

Adrien English owns a bookstore that specializes in mysteries, Cloak and Dagger Books. He’s recently sold his first book and has started the next. Lisa is his youthful, very social, and very protective mother worried about his heart condition.

Robert Hersey is an old high school classmate of Adrien’s. The first man with whom Adrien experimented and best man at Robert’s wedding to Tara, his high school sweetheart. An extremely angry and vituperative Tara. Hannah and Bobby are Robert’s young children.

Claude La Pierra owns Cafe Noir. I keep trying to imagine this big black guy with his affected French accent! Bruce Green is a reporter from Boytimes interested in both the story and in Adrien.

Detectives Chan and Jake Riordan investigate the murder of an employee at Adrien’s bookstore.

The Partners in Crime mystery writers group meets every Tuesday night at the shop and includes the very heterosexual Max Siddons, Claude, Jean and Ted Finch are writing partners, and Grania Joyce with her hardboiled feminist writing. Angus “Gus” Gordon is the temp sent over to help Adrien put the shop back together and take Robert’s place. Members of the high school chess club included Robert, Adrien briefly, Grant Landis, Rusty Corday, Andrew Chin, and Felicity Burns.

The Cover and Title

The cover is an interesting array of textures using a smudgy sort of pointillism to create the gray background with the man’s face emerging from an unbuttoned shirt and jacket and drops of blood.

The title refers to shadows that hide a figure in a black skull mask, the mysterious phone calls, the non-suspect. Any of these could hide Fatal Shadows.