Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gay romance meets gay mystery: The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks

Josh Lanyon is in good form with this title ... and what a title! The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks. At a glance, I knew I had to have it. With a title like that, how could you go wrong?

Josh Lanyon is one of a comparative handful of writers who consistently delivers the goods -- and The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks is a great addition to my shelf. It has everything: a wonderful plot; two irresistible heroes; loads of general weirdness and eccentric characters; dead bodies; a haunted house; a quirkier than usual gay romance; and of course Josh Lanyon's style of putting words on paper (or into the computer), which is as important to the book as the characters -- at least to me.

The story begins with a familiar enough mystery: a "now you see it, now you don't" dead body. But this one is in the bath when Perry Foster all but stumbles over it! Perry's a librarian ... is it me, or does he remind you of Christian Anholt's character on the old Relic Hunter tv series? You know how I love to "cast the parts," and from the start of The Ghost... I was seeing Chris Anholt in this role. I'm probably dead wrong, but it was a load of fun anyway! All this aside ... Perry is very lovely, kinda shy, and the perfect partner for Nick Reno ... who used to be a SEAL -- as in, US Navy. Now, Nick is brusque, chilly -- the kind of iceberg you'd love to melt. And Perry is just the one to do it. Picture this! It's delicious.

One of the great charms of The Ghost is that it's 50% mystery and 50% character play. The first half of the book is about people, relationships, who's who, what's what -- backstory three feet thick. I like this. I like to know the characters and the "map" before the action gets into high gear. The characterization of the two heroes is full of very "human" detail that I appreciated so much. Nothing cardboard about these characters. For instance, Nick can be rather mean at times, and Perry gets asthma -- it's the flaws in the characters that make them real and endearing.

As the book starts, Nick is leaving and we have an understanding that the potential relationship between him and Perry is going to fizzle before it starts ... Perry (in his early-to-mid 20s) is extremely, uh, virginal. He also ain't ready to quit on Nick. The seduction scene is marvelously done -- and without spoiling the plot for anyone, it'd be a weird reader who didn't like the way the whole thing turns out.

You have to smile as the mild mannered librarian gets the bit between his teeth and seems to tow Nick along. Nick is definitely the muscles of this outfit, but Perry has the brains, and is the one who's determined to investigate the murder mystery.

Does the book have a downside? I don't think so. A few reviewers have whined about the length of time it takes Perry and Nick to get down to some serious seduction, but that's a subjective viewpoint. I enjoyed the pacing -- and from the get-go, you knew this was a romance and a mystery, not one of those novels where seduction is The Big Ticket item between these covers, and any romance and/or mystery follows on from there. As a mystery-romance, The Ghost... succeeds on every level and you won't put it down. So --

Highly recommended. AG's rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Two versions have appeared, with different covers -- it's the Loose ID cover depicted above. The version currently at Amazon is wearing a new jacket, with an exterior shot of a creepy old mansion house...

Highly recommended!