I will begin by saying that I really enjoy the Pinx Video Mystery series by Marshall Thornton. You should know that this has to be the most slow-burning romance side plot in history. These novels are about Noah’s life and his discovery he became HIV+ from a man he trusted and loved. His partner has passed away at the beginning of this series, but in this third book, Late Fees, we still feel the impact of the legacy Noah unknowingly received. Murder finds poor Noah Valentine over and over it seems, but with the help of his intrepid friends, neighbors Matt and Louis, the sarcastically intrusive Leon, and the handsome recently out and proud Detective Javier O’Shea, luckily death merely brushes up against him occasionally.
When Noah’s mom visits to celebrate Thanksgiving with him and the crew, she brings along a woman whom she met on the plane during their layover. Realizing they were both in town to visit their gay sons, they immediately struck up a friendship that led to Noah driving the woman to her son’s apartment when he failed to meet her plane. It turns out that being found dead is a good reason for the missed connection and suddenly Noah and his mother are thrust into a mystery that neither want or are prepared for, but that never stopped Noah before.
Of course the crew jumps right in to solve the mystery and further complicates Noah’s real desire to not see his mother involved—she too is rather eager to be an amateur sleuth. With a lot of humor, a bit of danger, and a few awkward brushes with Javier, Noah plows on, despite his reluctance, and begins to unravel the mystery surrounding the man’s supposed suicide. When he discovers the guy was also HIV+ and had been given the death sentence of having full blown AIDS, the entire thing hits home in a very real way.
I have come to rely on author Marshall Thornton for a few very important things when it comes to his writing. First, incredibly detailed and realistic characters who are not only interesting to learn about, but quickly become those you care about and whose future you become invested in. Secondly, a smart and intricate mystery that hooks you in immediately and never gives away too many clues, but actively keeps you guessing till the end. Third, a touch of romance—a slight glimpse at the possibility surrounding his main character, Noah, and the struggle he has with being HIV+ in an era where it is just beginning to be understood, but still difficult to treat successfully.
Every one of these components go into making this author’s stories some of the very best in the mystery genre. By putting the whodunit element first, Thornton creates a marvelous story and then inhabits it with amazing characters who you are drawn to and who keep you entertained. I love Noah—I feel for him as he tries to grapple with being both a statistic and avoids being a man who is to be pitied. Rightfully or wrongfully, he avoids getting involved with Javier primarily because he doesn’t know what the future holds with his HIV status and he doesn’t want to see pity in Javier’s eyes. He’d rather go it alone than be someone’s project or worse, someone they avoid. In light of that, the ending to this particular installment made me so happy—the step Noah decides to take and the admission from Javier that he can’t stop thinking about Noah were like a bit of catnip to a fan who is just so patiently trying to wait to see these two get a happy ever after.
As always, the flair Marshall Thornton has of creating characters who keep a reader engaged doesn’t stop at just the main two, but extends to the side characters, as well. With the introduction of Noah’s mother, I can say that I sincerely hope we see more of her; she is such a delightfully funny and sweet woman. Add her to Louis and Matt, my personal faves, along with the delightfully annoying and direct Leon and you really have a full plate when it comes to an outstanding cast.
Fans of this author will be delighted with Late Fees. For those unfamiliar with this series, make sure you begin with the first, Night Drop, and work your way to this one. If pressed, I suppose you could read this as a standalone, but that would be a real stretch and you would miss out on the backstory of how this motley crew began. For me, this was another outstanding mystery by the very gifted author, Marshall Thornton and, as such, I highly recommend Late Fees to you.