Thomas Lynch has bucked his parents’ aspirations for him to join academia; instead, he joined law enforcement. He took to the job like a duck to water and eventually worked he way through the ranks and spent twelve years working homicides in NYC with his partner. All things considered, it was the life Lynch had always wanted for himself.
Then Lynch’s partner started slipping into a downward spiral of drug addiction. Not wanting or not able to admit his partner was potentially sabotaging both of their careers, Lynch convinced himself nothing was truly wrong. Until an accidental run-in with a drug dealer left bullet holes in his partner and cast a pall over Lynch’s career—never mind his state of mind.
Even though it was his own request, the transfer to the small town of Idyll, Connecticut as their new Chief of Police is far from ideal. It’s bad enough for a gay cop like Lynch to be stuck in a homophobic town where gay jokes are de rigueur, but his team of officers struggle to cut the muster. In fact, when a murder rocks the tiny town, it’s all Lynch can do to direct the investigation with a modicum of the efficiency and know-how that is second nature to NYC cops.
To make matters worse, he has intimate knowledge of the events that happened immediately prior to the murder…except his tongue is tied because he only knows what happened because he was about to have a steamy encounter with a random stranger.
Lynch struggles to find his footing personally, as he is resigned to going back into the closet, and also professionally as he makes choices that force him question how far down his own spiral he is willing to sink.
First, I want to say that I really enjoyed how this book is a Book, with a capital B. It’s rare for me to stumble upon a title that wholly and unequivocally places prominence on the situations surrounding the characters rather than the romance that might stem from said situations. There was rarely a moment where I got caught up in the “oh, NOW we focus on the romance!” part. This may be a turn off for some, but I found the suspense aspects (how will Lynch scratch the proverbial itch in this small town, what will happen with the investigation, will he get busted for not being forthright about having seen the murder victim hours before her murder, etc.) of the story plenty engrossing to keep me turning pages.
Next, I want to say that the characters are pretty spiffing as well. Clearly, Thomas Lynch is the star. The entire book is told from his perspective and while he’s pretty hard nose at work, we clearly see he’s not all work and no play. I must commend Gayle’s careful crafting of Lynch as a well-rounded, three-dimensional character. He is far from perfect and that helps make him pop off the page, as well as makes him a believable character. He’s funny, crass, sympathetic, and an overall joy to read.
One of the more intriguing aspects of this story is how Lynch’s life as a cop in NYC overlays his new life in Idyll. It would be wrong to say these memories are conveyed in strictly flashback mode, yet sometimes we see Lynch descend entirely into his memories until something from his new reality pulls his attention back to the present. Another feature of the dead-partner thread is that, while we get copious glimpses into the events that helped Lynch and his late partner bond and a heap of reflection on why his partner died, I felt like the whole episode is still unresolved with Lynch. Please do not mistake that for me having a feeling of this being a loose end that needs tying up (how does one “tie up” the loss of anyone to whom they are close?), just that for all the on-page action we are privy to, there is precious little we can actually conclude.
Now, as far as romance goes, I would caution readers (like the kind of reader I usually am: if all else fails, at least there will be some hot, sweaty man sex!) that the romance is not the focus here. That said, there are two main romantic possibilities in the book. The guy I was rooting for gets introduced early on. While I felt good and bated by Lynch’s reaction to him and the fact that everyone seems to know he is gay (perhaps the only truly out gay man in Idyll), nothing really developed. Being a man with manly needs, Lynch ends up with another guy who seemed to me like a perfectly acceptable alternate romantic interest and some lightly descriptive sexual activity ensues. What appealed to my not-so-secret inner filth monger is how this first man crops up again at the end of the book, how he reacts to merely the name of the guy Lynch actually hooks up with, and how there are possibilities of Lynch and the original man getting together in a future book. It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of reading a story where the romance is such a slow burn, it takes more than one book for the spark to catch (in fact, I can only readily recall is the Cut and Run series). So I’m all atwitter to find out what happens with this development.
Oh, yeah. There was the whole murder to solve, too. This is actually the focus of the page-to-page activity. Funny how it’s such a formative element of the story, but the last thing in the review? To be perfectly honest, I was reading and still half waiting for the typical romance elements (falling desperate in lust with someone, the whole development of a relationship, having that take over all other aspects of the MCs lives, etc.) to kick in. I finally realized that is not this book and paid a bit more attention to the crime stuff…which, in reflection, is pretty clever. There are a few red herrings thrown in that keep things tense and fresh. More than once, I had a bit of dread as one lead turned cold or another one turned up, wondering if and how it might relate to some of the iffy actions Lynch had taken (like not reporting he’d seen the murder victim a few hours before the victim got murdered).
All in all, this is a pretty satisfying read. There is just enough romance to keep things interesting for those who read romances for the shirt-ripping aspects, but there is plenty of nitty-gritty real world action to keep everything grounded. The writing felt well pitched for a MC in his forties and the voice of the MC was both cuttingly brutal, starkly honest, and sometimes even chortle inducing funny. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read, not just people who like M/M romances, even.