Author: Josh Lanyon
Cover Artist: K.B. Smith, art by Svetlana Rib
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 12/09/2016
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Fiction, Gay Fiction, Historical, Mystery/Thriller, Winter Holiday
Who or what is responsible for the gruesome deaths of members of the secret society known as the Order of Osiris?
Dr. Armiston, an irascible, confirmed bachelor who believes in medicine not mysticism, is certain the deaths are only tragic accidents.
The members of the Order of Osiris suspect something more sinister is at work. They profess to believe an ancient curse has been visited upon their society. Handsome and mysterious Captain Maxwell requests Armiston’s help.
Tarot cards? Egyptology? Spiritualism? Armiston has little patience with the superficial and silly pastimes of the rich, but he does love a good puzzle. Or could it be that he is more drawn to young Captain Maxwell than he wishes to admit?
Either way, Armiston must solve the secret of the cursed sarcophagus very soon, for Captain Maxwell is the next slated to die…
Everything about this novel felt reserved or restrained, held back. This worked regarding some aspects for the story and not so much in others.
One of the best things about this story is Armiston, arguably the main character since he’s one among many, who is comfortably inside the range of middle age. Well, comfortable in terms of the number but not so much in how he views himself when in the company of younger people. This is particularly true regarding Captain Maxwell, and the way he slowly but surely makes his way into Armiston’s surprised heart and life.
I like when a mystery is slow to unfold. I don’t want to be rushed through or forced into conclusions or discoveries. In this way, Lanyon is as successful as ever in allowing the details, consequences, and answers to reveal themselves in natural time.
Something that misses the mark, however, is the manner of speech most of these characters use, in thought and in conversation. I’m going to guess that it might be appropriate for the time period but it felt overused in telling a story for a modern audience. Sometimes the rhythm of the prose felt out of sync, and was probably exacerbated by this choice of language type.
I enjoy a good mashup, with magic and paranormal and mystery and historical all getting tossed into the blender to see what kind of exciting treat we get. The mystery is top notch but it’s not served well by the ancient Egyptian mystical forces that are supposed to be at work here, dealing in life and death. For as much detail as we’re given, this felt underdeveloped and therefore disconnected from the rest of the story and the character development as I moved along in the book. Regarding this aspect, it felt like I was dropped into the middle of this particular part of society and should have already known more about it, but I wasn’t provided enough backstory to accomplish that. Whenever the mummy and related forces showed up, they felt more like interruptions than integral parts of the plot.
In terms of the characters, they’re varied in personalities and motivations and I enjoyed the feeling like I was a part of the dance as they worked to figure out what all was going on with the mummy and its connection to them. Sometimes the development felt only surface-deep, but then came bright moments of intense revelation and emotion, like mighty spikes on an otherwise steady graph. Armiston and Maxwell are definitely examples of this, as well as the guy who ends up being the creepy cool baddie of the whole thing. Although, the reasons for his actions were murky. But hey, he leaves no doubt as to what he wants and what he’ll do to get it.
The last 20% of the book felt rushed in comparison the rest. Thankfully, both Armiston and Maxwell, especially, are wonderfully drawn characters and were able to counteract the drag that this speedy race to the finish tried to wrap things up with what was insufficient resolution of some parts of the plot.
This is much more a mystery, a slight examination of friendship, and an awakening of an emotional shelf left empty for too long than it is a romance. You all know by now that this isn’t an issue for me. What are issues are the things I’ve laid out here. On the flipside, I much more often than not like and support when a storyteller tries something new to them and decides to share it with us. So, despite this not being one of the most enjoyable Josh Lanyon stories for me, I’m glad I read it and I hope we get more of this type, just with more ‘there’ there. 🙂
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
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