Adrien English has finally received some recognition for his writing and his book “Murder Will Out” has been optioned by Hollywood actor Paul Kane. As a result, Adrien finds himself at a Tinseltown luncheon with all sorts of Hollywood types. Not his usual crowd, but because there are plans to turn his book into a movie he’s making a concerted effort. During the luncheon, Adrien is seated next to movie financier Porter Jones and forced to endure Porter’s self-absorbed conversation on deep-sea fishing. But when Porter Jones drops dead face down in his soup, Adrien once again finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Adrien receives another jolt when the LAPD shows up and he comes face-to-face with his former lover – Jake Riordan. Now a lieutenant, Jake arrives with an ambitious young dick named Alonzo. As they begin questioning the guests, it becomes apparent that Adrien has been singled-out as a person of interest. Adrien’s connection to Porter’s death is completely circumstantial but with forensic results pointing to murder detective Alonzo remains suspicious. With Jake’s concurrence Adrien is solicited to put his sleuthing skills to work by asking a few questions of the possible suspects. This throws Adrien and Jake together once again working to solve the crime, much to the displeasure of Adrien’s boyfriend Guy. But little does anyone know that bringing Adrien and Jake together to investigate the murder is all part of the master plan.
The fourth installment in the Adrien English Mysteries Death of a Pirate King not only lives up to the promise of the previous books, in many respects it surpassed my expectations which were already quite high. It is readily apparent that Josh Lanyon’s writing, on all fronts, has hit its stride in this book.
While it is virtually impossible to provide more detail on the mystery without completely giving away the plot, I will say that the author has written an outstanding mystery plot in particular in respect of the characterization of the perpetrator who is a master manipulator – a cold, calculating and cruel sociopath. The mystery stories in each of the previous books had always served as separate backdrops to Adrien and Jake’s relationship. In Death of a Pirate King the author blurs these lines whereby the circumstances surrounding the crime mystery and those of Jake and Adrien’s relationship become intimately entwined.
Lanyon also continues to excel in the continued exploration of Adrien and Jake and their ongoing relationship dance. I found the author’s writing of Adrien much more textured in this book. This is not to say that the writing of Adrien in the previous books was somehow inferior or lacking, but rather it is clear that after writing this character for almost a decade Adrien has become a second skin for Lanyon.
It has been two years since Adrien and Jake parted ways and on the surface life is going well for Adrien. He’s in a relationship with UCLA professor Guy Snowden and has more or less acclimatized to his new family having formed personal relationships with his stepsisters, in particular with the youngest Emma who is a kindred spirit. In addition to his book being optioned, the book selling business is good and he plans to expand the bookstore. And while he continues to be plagued by health issues, Adrien appears to have moved on with his life.
But Jake’s reappearance throws Adrien off-balance as he realizes that despite the two years apart, he is emotionally in the same place when it comes to Jake. Whereas in the past Adrien would mask his feelings through sarcasm, he is now much more demonstrative of his anger and resentment over his continued feelings for Jake and the realization that Jake carried on relationships with other men while they were apart. I view Adrien’s ability to more honestly express his feelings of anger as an important part of this character’s growth and the author aptly captures this change in Adrien through his narrative voice as well as in his verbal exchanges with Jake.
“He waited for me to say it. My heart sped up as I pictured myself speaking the words, betraying the secret he had protected for forty-two years. I could hurt him every bit as badly as he had hurt me — and the hurt would be lasting, permanent — devastating everything he cared about, from his career to his marriage. I could wreck him with a couple of sentences, and he knew it. He could see I was considering it.”
By all appearances Jake has also moved on to create the life that he’s always wanted for himself but things have not turned out in the way that he had envisioned or planned. Adrien aptly observes that the last two years have been difficult for him:
“He looked older. Still ruggedly good-looking in that big, blond, take-no-prisoners way. But thinner, sharper around the edges. Harder. It had been two years since I’d last seen him. They didn’t appear to have been a blissful two years, but he still had that indefinable something. Like a young Steve McQueen or a mature Russell Crowe.”
In the end, Jake’s efforts to hide who and what he is, the denial of his feelings and the life choices that he’s made as a result of his lies of omission, and the façade of his double life topple like a house of cards around both he and Adrien.
In Death of a Pirate King Josh Lanyon takes the reader on an intense and suspenseful journey with a highly climatic ending that leaves both Adrien and Jake precariously balanced and the reader gasping for air. It is a perfect ending that provides for an equally perfect beginning for the next and final book in the Adrien English Mysteries series. Death of A Pirate King by Josh Lanyon is another 5 star read.
NOTE: This review was originally published online at Rainbow Reviews.