Bookstore owner and mystery author Adrien English has been having a run of bad luck: he keeps finding dead bodies. It’s not his fault. Really. First, his childhood friend and assistant is murdered (Fatal Shadows), then he takes a vacation to his grandmother’s ranch and finds a body in the driveway and another in the barn (A Dangerous Thing). When his new assistant, Angus, becomes involved with a real-life Satanic cult and is framed for a series of ritualistic murders, Adrien decides to investigate. Which makes his closeted police detective boyfriend, Jake Riordan, very unhappy and increasingly paranoid that someone will uncover their relationship ….
This series completely sucked me in. After thoroughly enjoying the paranormal mysteries of KJ Charles and Jordan L Hawk, I went looking for something new to read. Lanyon’s contemporary mysteries kept popping up in recommendation lists, so I downloaded a sample of Fatal Shadows. It took only a few pages for me to fall for Adrien. Mysteries are rife with flawed, self-destructive protagonists. Adrien — a sincerely nice guy who loves old books and old music and old movies — is a refreshing change of pace. Plus, there’s the heart thing: rheumatic fever at age sixteen damaged his heart valves, leaving him painfully aware of his own mortality. Against his better judgement, Adrien begins seeing Jake (who can’t even admit to himself that he is gay, let alone anyone else). Adrien knows the relationship is doomed, but he still falls in love. Terrified that someone will discover that they are involved, Jake orders Adrien to steer clear of the investigation into Angus, but Adrien can’t stay away; he needs to know the truth. In the course of looking into Angus’ ties to a Satanic cult, Adrien befriends the local Wiccan shop owner —
Which is why The Hell You Say is being reviewed at EHS. Unlike far too many writers, Lanyon did his homework, and it shows. He makes the differences between Wicca and the many kinds of Satanism quite clear, even going so far as to feature positive Wiccan characters. This is, for lack of a better phrase, a completely “normal” mystery; the only “para” elements center around characters’ beliefs and how they act on those beliefs, e.g. the Satanists engage in human sacrifice, while the Wiccans offer their help and perform a protective ritual for Adrien. (Please note, I am not suggesting that all Satanists engage in human sacrifice, or would given the chance; these are the bad guys of the story, and they act accordingly.)
The Adrien English Mysteries are terrific books, filled with engaging characters, narrow escapes, and dramatic finales. While it is not necessary to read them in order, I recommend doing so; it is a heck of a lot of fun to watch the evolution of Adrien and Jake’s relationship. Highly recommended to fans of KJ Charles, Joanna Chambers, Jordan L Hawk, and Juliet Blackwell.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of EHS.]