Friday, March 07, 2014

The Adrien English series, by Josh Lanyon - a review

In my head I'm screaming and kicking wildly.

No, no, NO! I will NOT become a Fanyon!

I'm in denial, because the reality is that I am completely in love with Josh Lanyon's writing. Yes, it's a little formulaic, and there are some parallels to be drawn in terms of characterisation between series, but it's well written and an easy read. What also helps is he's a bringer of Happily Ever Afters, and I like these. A lot.

Last night I finished the fifth novel in the Adrien English Mysteries series - there is a book six that's a kind of 'write it yourself' thing - I may take a peek, but I prefer to have the story already told. So, effectively, book five is the end of the story.

The full series, in order (links go to Josh Lanyon's website):
  1. Fatal Shadows
  2. A Dangerous Thing
  3. The Hell You Say
  4. Death of a Pirate King
  5. The Dark Tide
  6. Stranger Things Have Happened

I started book one on February 9th, and today is March 7th. Talk about getting sucked in!

The series is set in Pasadena, where Adrien English owns Cloak and Dagger book store. He's an amateur sleuth, and a writer too, of a bizarre murder mystery series about a gay Shakespearean actor and amateur sleuth! The story begins with the murder of Adrien's long-time friend and employee, Rob, soon after which Lanyon introduces the reader to the other star of the series, Jake Riordan, a homicide detective.

Each book in the series deals with a new mystery, although the relationships, between Adrien and Jake, between Adrien and his mother, and various others, develop throughout the series. There are road trips to old ranches, to visit retired cops, fateful voyages aboard boats, celebs, politicians, satanism, secret lives, stray cats - it's got the lot, but for me it's the characterisation and relationships that make a story.

The dynamic between Adrien and Jake is electric from the start, and where other reviewers have said they hated Jake early on, I didn't ever experience this. I did despise Adrien's mother for most of the series (loved the line in A Dangerous Thing - "She has her moments, does me mum." I thought, "Ah, she's from round our way."), but she suitably redeemed herself toward the end, and that's a sign of great penmanship, right there. We should only really come to loathe the baddies, and this she is not.

It's difficult to say more of Adrien's mother, or Jake, without spoiling the plot, but readers get to experience both of them through Adrien's eyes, as the writing is first person narrative, which Lanyon does very well - his standalone novel, Fair Game, is the only one of his I've read so far that's not in first person, and it's an excellent but more serious read than Adrien English.

Also brilliant in the cast of characters are Jean and Ted Finch who are part of the writing group that meets at the store, and Angus, who is sent by an agency to work at Cloak and Dagger in book one. His quietly spoken way, and Adrien's commentary on this, is hilarious. I kind of liked Guy too, but won't say more than that.

However, it is the main character that has made me fall completely for Josh Lanyon's books. Adrien is a lot like Christopher Holmes in Lanyon's ongoing Holmes and Moriarity series - both are dry, witty, sarcastic, whilst also being vulnerable and having experienced pain in their lives. I'm afraid I've fallen in love with 'Adrien with an e', which isn't good, as he's both a gay man and not real. Ah well.

So, my only issues with this series are thus: first, because Adrien's character is a lot like the main character in my own series there were times when I'd be reading, thinking, "Would Josh do / say / think that?" and then I'd remember what I was reading.

Secondly, I'm devastated I've reached the end. There's much to be said for knowing when to conclude a series, and this was definitely the right place to do so, but even so, I'm going to miss Adrien and Jake. I've been living with them for a month now, and I've got used to having them around.

In conclusion, the Adrien English Mysteries series is an excellent read - murder mysteries, the path of love running a complicated riot, dry, clever humour, and some of them even get to live happily ever after!

Thank you, Josh Lanyon. May your prolificacy continue.


For all of Josh Lanyon's books, visit: http://www.joshlanyon.com/the_works.html

Saturday, March 01, 2014

London Author Fair, Hans M. Hirschi and the curse of being a natural proofreader.

So, I'm utterly exhausted! I've been back home for just a little over an hour, and it's a real effort to type. Yesterday I was at the London Author Fair - the first event of its kind - held in Covent Garden, where I met up with Hans M. Hirschi, author of Family Ties, Jonathan's Hope and The Opera House.

Two weeks ago I wasn't planning on going to London at all. I used to live down there, and visiting always reminds me of why I moved away. I swear the water is just piped straight from the Thames (makes me ill and leaves a really yucky residue around cups - that can't be right, surely?). Then there's the whole 'cheapest' ticket for a return journey of two stops (Russell Square to Covent Garden) being a £9 travelcard. Seriously? Do you think you could maybe tell me Covent Garden was going to be closed later before I buy a return?

Anyway, gripes aside, I had a really good time. The London Author Fair was very useful - lots of seminars and workshops with agents, authors and Patrick Brown - the director of Author Marketing at Goodreads (a real show stealer).

As for Hans...well he did introduce me to other people as 'anal', which, I'll admit, I used first in reference to my ability to spot errors in books as I read them. It's a bit of a curse these days, and I wish I could read without seeing them, but I can't. However, he also said some lovely things about my editing / proofreading too, which makes up for my crying on a train full of people on the way down to London - the ending of Jonathan's Hope is beautiful and is happy, kind of, as the stoic southerner sitting opposite me witnessed secondhand via my emotional outpouring. I don't even do crying, or I never used to!

All of this is to say, in short, go and read Hans' novels. They're MM Romance / literary fiction with deep, emotional characters encountering many challenges and coming through the other side scarred yet victorious. He was talking of a box set of the three novels, which is definitely (or definitively? ;)) going to be a beautiful addition to any reader's library.

I also got to be a working class northern lass in an upper class hotel for an evening, which was...interesting! I'm not comfortable in these places and I don't fit, but I'm kind of proud of that, although the cloakroom attendants did mock my Nepalese woollen coat, but it's fair trade and warm, so I don't care!

Whilst there (having been sent to the wrong bar) I met a guy from Georgia who was 'vacationing in England' with his son. We chatted about his work and how one of his work locations had burned down in November (insurance had only just paid out), and my writing (he said he'd look out for me when I'm a bestseller...), and I taught him how to pronounce Conway (in English). At the same time, Hans was sitting in another bar in the same building, and called my husband and said, "I'm waiting for your wife in a bar in a hotel in London, and she's not here!" Ha!

What else? Went to a Jamie Oliver diner - not great, to be honest, and we felt for the waitress, who I can only conclude had reached the hysteria stage of exhaustion. She tried her best and served us well, and honestly. I don't think we made the end of a long shift easy for her and she'd finished by the time we paid - if you're reading this, thank you, George.

Finally, I got to experience dawn in the capital, on account of hotel beds being about as comfortable as those roll-up thin foam mats you take on hiking expeditions. It was kind of beautiful, in a "Go the f**k to sleep!" way.

In conclusion - it was a worthwhile trip, where I was reassured that I don't want to go down the traditional publishing route any more than I ever did and still don't have the coordinates for the holy grail of marketing success, but I am most definitely not alone.

And I'm most definitely glad to be home!