College student Angus Gordon has been working at Cloak and Dagger Books as an assistant for almost a year. Although his boss, Adrien English, thinks that he is a touch on the strange side, what with his interest in the occult, he is a good employee. Besides, Adrien firmly believes that he’s young and will outgrow this nonsense, eventually. When Angus starts receiving strange and progressively life-threatening phone calls Adrien comes to his rescue by providing the means for Angus to disappear for a while at least until things calm down.
The only problem is that gruesome murders start to take place, famous authors disappear and Cloak and Dagger Books becomes the mark of a satanic cult. Add to this his association with the now missing Angus and Adrien finds himself smack in the middle of trouble again. With the body count rising, the LAPD is once again investigating. But much to the chagrin and against the advice of his sometimes boyfriend LAPD homicide detective Jake Riordan, Adrien is compelled to do some nosing around of his own. This not only plays havoc with his relationship with Jake, it also places Adrien directly in harms way.
Adrien’s life has become more complicated as of late, what with the prospects of a new family, his chronic heart problems, Satanist threats, a host of possible suspects, the question of Angus’ involvement in this sordid mess and last but certainly not least, his increasingly complex relationship with Jake. Things eventually come to a head with an altogether dramatic ending to the crime mystery and possibly to Adrien and Jake’s relationship.
In the third book of the Adrien English Mysteries series, The Hell You Say, author Josh Lanyon presents us with another compelling mystery, while at the same time continuing the exploration of protagonists Adrien and Jake and the emotional twists and turns of their relationship.
The mystery in Book 3 of the series is most gripping and I was completely swallowed-up by Adrien and Jake’s quest to solve the crimes. Once again, this is attributable to the author’s ability to craft an elaborate mystery plot with an assortment of well-written secondary characters as possible suspects, some of whom I suspect may become recurring characters in the books to come. The subject matter of this “who done it” also fed my personal fascination with matters relating to the occult. On this front, it is clear that Lanyon did some thorough research in writing on pagan religions into the storyline and in particular of the differences between Wicca and Satanism and the more dubious off-shoot cults.
The quality of the writing remains superb. The story continues to be written through Adrien’s eyes and his narrative and personal introspection offer a story that is seamless, rich and textured.
Equally, Lanyon’s continued exploration and development of Adrien and Jake is, as always, exceptional. The author maintains the integrity of both characters by ensuring that their evolution and growth is in keeping with who they are fundamentally. In doing so there is veracity in the choices they make and in their actions and reactions.
Adrien remains a joy to read and I found myself quite focused on his character in this particular book. There is much going in his life. As an only child who has grown into a self-sufficient and independent man quite comfortable with his own company and solitary pursuits, he is left unsettled by his mother’s announcement of her impending marriage and the prospect of being enfolded into a new and instant family. His heart condition continues to plague him and the exertion of weighing into yet another investigation only serves to further aggravate his illness. But for all the stresses in his life, his emotionally difficult and complicated relationship with Jake Riordan causes Adrien the most anguish as he comes to a number of realizations. Intellectually, Adrien has steeled himself that there is no future with Jake, and uses his quick wit and sarcastic quips and comebacks to shield his true feelings from Jake and others. Emotionally however, he is forced to come to terms with his feelings.
There is a specific exchange between Adrien and a secondary character in this book that I felt was particularly revealing of Adrien. This secondary character holds a mirror up to Adrien and while this character’s motivations for doing so are not to be trusted, his statement about Adrien captured my attention, as I believe his observations contain several kernels of truth.
“‘Shall I tell you what I think, what I have believed since the day you came to my home seeking answers? I think you are searching for that which is missing in your own life. I think that is what this quest to find an imaginary murderer is really about.’
‘Inquiring minds want to know.’
He said gently, ‘Always the joke, the flippant comment, the laughter that keeps the wall intact. But behind the wall, I sense a great emptiness, loss, loneliness …'”
The author also continues his peeling back of Jake’s layers. It has been almost a year since Adrien and Jake first met and although they are carrying on a relationship of sorts, Jake’s bi-weekly trysts with Adrien remain clandestine as Jake is still deeply closeted and continues to maintain a double life. Jake’s dilemma of hating what he is and by extension resenting his feelings for Adrien, and his choice to live a life based on the expectations of others motivate him to make certain decisions and take certain actions that deeply hurt Adrien. And while it is much easier to vilify him for his decisions and actions, he is written with such honesty that Jake emerges as a character for whom I have an affinity precisely because of his authenticity.
In the end, there are several defining moments in this story for both characters whereby their actions and reactions have serious consequences for their relationship. Having read The Hell You Say, I now understand the discussion and debate these two characters have engendered among readers of the series that came before me, and that, no doubt, will continue with readers to come.
I found The Hell You Say to be the most emotionally intense book in the series thus far and was not surprised to learn that it won the 2006 USA Book News Award for GLBT Fiction and was a finalist in the 2006 Lambda Literary Awards for Gay Mystery. It is a five star plus read and I make absolutely no bones about the fact that I loved it!
For those readers that have yet to discover this series, The Hell You Say can be read as a stand-alone book as Josh Lanyon has written all the books in the series with an eye on continuity in respect of back story. However, in order to fully appreciate the richness of the main characters, their growth and the evolution of their relationship, I highly recommend reading the first two books in the series, Fatal Shadows and A Dangerous Thing before embarking on the third book.
NOTE: This review was originally published online by Rainbow Reviews.