Rating: 4 stars
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Max has happily settled into life in his new home in Welling with his incredible boyfriend, Gentry Fox. After the fast life in L.A., Max never dreamed he could find such contentment in a small town across the country, but he couldn’t be happier. In fact, Max is just trying to find the right time to propose to Gentry and seal their future together.
The timing is being delayed, however, by Max’s seven houseguests. The script he wrote about the history of Gentry’s grandmother’s family is being turned into a movie. Now, the director and the key cast are spending two weeks at Max’s house so they can get a better feel for the environment and history before they start filming. Most members of the group are lovely, but there are a couple of folks who are making things miserable for everyone and Max is counting days until he gets his house and his quiet back.
However, when one of the actors gets murdered, things take a turn toward chaos. The sheriff is a homophobic, small-minded disaster who is just looking for a chance to pin the crime on one of the folks currently staying in Max’s house. And it doesn’t help that Max finds it hard to imagine that the killer wasn’t one of them, even if none seems a likely murderer. With the sheriff clearly not looking to do any actual investigating, they must hope that they figure out who is behind the crime before the wrong person ends up in jail.
Let Sleeping Foxes Lie is the follow up to Sam Burns’ excellent Where Foxes Say Goodnight and completes the two-book Sleeping Foxes series. This features a new mystery connected to a new group of characters who come to visit Max’s home, but I do think it is best enjoyed after reading the first book for the larger context. It helps to know the various key characters, like Max, Gentry, Gentry’s brother Jon, and their ghostly grandmother, Nadia. Plus, the various folks in the small town of Welling. And the first book is sooo good, so do yourself a favor and start there.
The first book is very much focused on setting up the relationship between Gentry and Max and, along the way, they uncover a long-ago murder that brings to light a lot about the Fox family past. This story has a different angle and instead centers on a present-day murder mystery and investigation. The tone is very cozy mystery, almost closed door mystery in that it is generally assumed one of the folks in the movie group is behind the murder. I enjoyed the mystery and found it had some nice surprises along the way. I was not only surprised by the killer, but by some of the various twists as well, though it all felt very much in keeping with the characters. While Max isn’t officially investigating anything, the fact that he is close friends with Deputy Alicia Marks, along with everyone being at his house, means he gets to be in the middle of things and plays a big role in figuring out who is behind it all and why.
While I think the mystery itself was cleverly put together with some unexpected elements, I did find myself thrown out of the story at times by things that seemed a little far fetched. Alicia is supposed to be super professional, yet she discloses key elements of the investigation to Max, and lets Max read the case files. Then, Max goes and tells the group what he has learned, despite the fact that it is potentially incriminating information that presumably the police would want to reveal while questioning suspects. It obviously works for the story, as it keeps Max in the middle of things, but seemed very contrary to the professionalism that we are told Alicia has, particularly in comparison to her boss.
In addition, as I said, it is generally assumed all around that the prime suspects are the folks currently residing in Max’s house. Yet, they are all continuing to stay there with no apparent concern about their safety. Also, these are a famous director and some famous actors who are potentially suspects in a murder. They clearly have the means to hire lawyers to be there with them when they talk to the police, yet none do. This felt a lot more like plot contrivance to keep things low-key and cozy than all that likely in reality, especially given that it is clear the sheriff is looking to pin something on one of them. Not to mention that no one from the movie production company or their PR firm, legal team, etc seems to even have been notified that one of their actors was murdered while involved in a pre-production group activity, which again, seems unlikely.
And finally, I found it near impossible to believe that somehow this murder is kept quiet for days. A group of famous actors and director are in town and one of them is violently killed in a very public place. And no one outside of town is supposed to have heard about it? Even if the investigation is kept quiet from the police end, no one in town is talking about the murder that dozens of people witnessed? No one is posting about it on social media or talking about it with friends out of town? There are no local newspapers or news outlets that cover the incredibly rare and shocking murder in town, especially of an actor making a Hollywood movie? It just seemed so far fetched to me. And I know that most of this doesn’t really matter, but given how clever and well put together the mystery itself is, this all just felt a little sloppy and kept drawing my attention away from the story.
For me, the heart of both of these books is Max and Gentry and I continue to love them here. The way they so clearly adore each other and the love they share comes through so strongly. There is just this gentle sweetness between them that I can’t resist and I love the way things tie up with their relationship here. I would have liked even more time with them, to be honest, as they spend a lot of the story with only minimal interaction. I would have also loved more time with Nadia as well, as I find her interesting and endearing. But in the end, it all comes together really nicely on the personal front, and I especially liked how the story ties up threads for all the various side characters as well.
Sam Burns really does so well with this style story and I think this series is something special. Despite my nitpicks on elements of the mystery, I found myself unable to put this one down and really enjoying my time with Max, Gentry, and the rest of the group. This is an excellent set of stories and definitely worth reading.