Author: John Inman
Narrator: Randal Schaffer
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Story Rating: 4.25 of 5 Stars
Narration Rating: 3.75 of 5 Stars
Overall Rating: 4.0 of 5 Stars
Release Date: 02/23/2016
Length: 11 hours 51 minutes
Genre: Contemporary, Crime Fiction, Gay Romance, Mystery/Thriller
Reverend Brian Lucas has a secret his congregation in the Nine Mile Methodist Church knows nothing about, and he’d really like to keep it that way. But even his earth-shattering secret takes a backseat to what else is happening in his tiny hometown.
Murders usually do that.
Brian’s “close friend,” Sam, is urging a resolution to their little problem, but Brian’s brother, Boyd, the County Sheriff, is more caught up in chasing down a homicidal maniac who is slaughtering little old ladies.
When Brian’s secret and Boyd’s mystery run into each other head on, and Boyd’s fifteen-year-old son, Jesse, gets involved, all hell breaks loose. Then a fourth death comes to terrify the town, and it is Brian who begins to see what is taking place in their little corner of the Corn Belt. But even for a Methodist minister, it will take more than prayer to set it right
In Sunset Lake, macabre murder is balanced with the hilarity of small town characterizations and dialogue as the reader is treated to a fascinating look at a sleepy Midwestern hamlet turned upside down by violence. Juxtaposing grisliness and humor, Mr. Inman crafts a tale with witty turn-of-phrase and vivid detail, interweaving themes and issues of morality, family solidarity, and inescapable homophobia. Characters leap from the pages with unapologetic boldness, giving this intriguing murder mystery plenty of exuberant life and dimension. Story events unfold quickly as the Reverend Brian Lucas fills the reader in on the mundane and bizarre happenings of Nine Mile, describing its residents in a frank and often irreverent manner. The reader is held captive, listening to Brian tell of life and populace, and it is nearly impossible to turn away, particularly when death comes calling.
At the story’s core, of course, are the closeted Brian Lucas and his “friend” of many years, Sam. Their story plays out amidst the small-minded daily routines, mayhem, and murder, with the distinct pall of homophobia hanging over their heads. Respite from the stifling existence and sudden violence in Nine Mile, population 327, is found in preparing Brian’s youth camp at nearby Sunset Lake. There the reader is able to settle in along with the characters for some privacy, peace, and quiet. This isolation brings focus upon their very real conflict. The depth and emotion of their relationship is evident here, told with compassion and sensitivity without a great deal of angst, and their scenes together are well balanced, appealing, and sexy. Interactions with each other and secondary characters are a most pleasant and engaging blend of serious and comical, keeping the plot running and relationships fresh and interesting.
Gradually, as the body count rises and the truth begins to surface, the humor gives way to a darkness that pervades the latter part of the book. The reader is no longer treated to the frank, down-home comedy that has kept the tone aloft. The gravity of the truth behind the killings and the moral questions surrounding the ending bring the story down into depths as black and cold as those of Sunset Lake itself. This is where the reader may struggle with character actions and motives and will need to decide whether or not the ending is satisfying, horrible, or merely a testament to the fact that gray areas exist within the realm of humanity and, at times, play a larger part in life than we like to believe.
Overall, this is a fantastic little journey through small-minded Main Street America, complete with peach cobbler, Methodist hymns, and unlocked doors. With both laugh-out-loud funny and graphically disturbing narration peppering the pages, it is one of the most unique murder mysteries I have ever read. Like the ending or not, the road leading up to it is much like the bumpy, bone-jarring, and often amusing ride in Brian’s decrepit Rambler. I recommend it for that alone, and the reader can make the choice whether the conclusion is worth the journey.
Although Randal Schaffer’s reading wasn’t poorly done, his voice didn’t quite fit Brian’s younger, first-person narrative in my opinion. It worked much better, however, for the various personalities of Brian’s flock at the Methodist Church, and I felt that, overall, it was a satisfactory performance.
I would like to thank the author for providing me with the audiobook of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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