Rating: 5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
I should begin this review by openly admitting that I am a Lanyonphile. Roughly translated in the Greek, that would be a lover of all things Lanyon, specifically Josh Lanyon. So when I was told I could review some of his latest work I sat myself down and had a stern talk with said self. I reminded me that I needed to be impartial, review the work as is without fond memories of works gone by, and allow for constructive criticism should the writing call for it. I was impressive as I firmly took myself in hand…wait, let me reword that, as I spoke to myself and laid down the basic tenants of reviewing: summarize, highlight, reveal strengths and any weaknesses, end on positive note. Yes I was ready…then, once again author Josh Lanyon did what he does so well, wrote a story that blew me away and left me a bit speechless.
The Haunted Heart: Winter by Josh Lanyon is at its heart a tentative step toward the healing of a broken and near beaten heart. Surrounding our main character’s fragile first steps toward living again is a ghost/mystery story that was genuinely scary and eerily shrouded in one curious discovery after another. Flynn Ambrose has essentially lost his will to live, having buried the love of his life and best friend, Alan, almost a year before. He hangs on by his fingertips to what many would consider a barely living status and desperately seeks to remain focused enough to prevent his loving parents from pulling him back home and back into the psychiatric unit he has just left.
In a last ditch effort to keep his independence, he has come to the crumbling home of his deceased Great-Uncle Winston in order to catalogue and ready for sale his considerable pieces of antiquity and oddity. From everything such as headless mannequins to Limoges china, Winston had packed the rafters of his ancient house with rare and unusual relics from the past. It is one piece, however, a regency ormolu mirror, that has captured Flynn’s attention and not in a good way. At first, he thinks he can feel his dead lover reaching out to him from the flickering light in the mirror but it is something much more macabre and deadly that lurks in its murky glass.
When Flynn fears that his sanity truly has left him, he enlists the aid of the only tenant in the house, Kirk Murdock, a playwright and ex-Ranger who lives downstairs. With what amounts to huge relief for Flynn, Kirk also sees that which lies in wait for Flynn in the mirror and the two set off on a hunt to discover who or what the ghostly apparition is and wants. The clock is ticking, however, and each hour that passes puts Flynn in more and more danger of not only losing his sanity but potentially his life as well.
Please know that this summary is the mere tip of an intricately drawn story that left me absolutely breathless at times. Not since the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz have I experienced that small tingle on the back of my neck as I turned on more and more lights while reading this novel. Not only has author Josh Lanyon written an incredibly scary little tale but also, once again, he has woven multiple layers into each page of text that made this so much more than a simple ghost story.
Yes, this was a well-done paranormal/horror/mystery/romance novella. And if you think for one moment that Lanyon did not pull off every one of those category markers with aplomb, think again. I have read most, if not all of this author’s work and I can say, without reservation, that this one is right up there with his finest novels. The careful and gradual way in which each of his characters is unwrapped, their lives laid open and just a hint of the darkness that holds them tight in its grip is revealed is simply delicious! We learn about Flynn and Kirk, bit by bit, just as they learn about each other. Never rushing, the author allows this slow dance to drift along, constantly springing one shocking surprise after another about both Flynn and Kirk’s shadowy pasts. By novel’s end, the small revelations that explode on the page about each of these men grab you by the throat and hook you in deep.
The Haunted Heart: Winter is the first in a new series, with each subsequent season to reveal new adventures for these two men. Honestly, I have never wanted a spring thaw so badly! Once again I find myself using the word, fine literature, compelling story lines and intricate characterization in the same breath as the name Josh Lanyon. This is one author who does not fail to deliver a topnotch story and The Haunted Heart is no exception. My recommendation? Read It!—with the lights on.