Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"A Dangerous Thing" by Josh Lanyon

This second Adrien English mystery from Lanyon is a stronger showing than his series starter, "Fatal Shadows" (see earlier review). A better, tighter plot line and a good dose of character development made me glad that I decided to read this book.

Adrien is running away in the opening, literally - from his writer's block, from his bookstore, and from his possible boyfriend cop Jake. He decides to hide out at Pine Shadow Ranch, property left to him by his dear Granna, the same bold dame that also left him his sizable inheritance. He claims he's going to "check on" the place, even though he doesn't tell anyone where he's headed. When he arrives, though, he finds that things are seriously amiss, starting with the dead body at the foot of the driveway.

Of course there are several plot twists and turns. Said body has disappeared by the time the local law team get there (a duo that could certainly give Andy & Barney a run for their money). A second dead body is found in the barn, one that looks similar to the first but which Adrien insists is not the corpse he saw. There are potshots taken at Adrien, a snake in a mailbox, a college group doing an archaeological dig on his property (authorized by a fraudulent letter), and a field of pot growing out on the back forty. Ted Harvey, the caretaker that Adrien hired a few years ago to watch over/keep up the place, is nowhere to be found. And to top it all off, Jake shows up to lend his support and help after Adrien is knocked unconscious while "investigating".

And lest we forget, there are Indian tribal lands involved, a legend about The Guardian, and some weird, spooky chants heard in the hills.

It sounds like a complicated plot, doesn't it? Well, some of it is, but mostly it's just interesting stuff, especially the historical parts about the Gold Rush and mining in California, something I don't know much about. What had me really enjoying this book was the development of the relationship between Adrien and Jake. There's a lot more page time devoted to it, and a lot more explanation of Jake's background, why he's so upset about his sexual orientation, how that affects the budding romance between he and Adrien. After all, as Adrien puts it, Jake is "buried so deep in the closet he [doesn't] know where to look for himself", and it's hard to love someone who has so much self-hatred. The only thing that felt off about the interactions of the two is Jake calling Adrien "baby" so much; I'm not really sure I buy that a big, burly, deeply-in-denial law enforcement agent would use such a term, especially not out in public. Granted, most of the times that term of endearment are said, it's just the two men, but there are a few instances where they are in public places. I don't really see Jake feeling free enough to utter something like that, even if he thought no one else would be able to hear it.

Overall, this is a much better book than the first in the series, making it highly likely that I'll be reading the third installment.

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