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REVIEW: Puzzle for Two by Josh Lanyon

Puzzle for Two – Josh Lanyon

It was like those crazy detective novels he read as a kid…

Fledging PI Zachariah Davies’s wealthy and eccentric client, toymaker Alton Beacher, wants to hire an investigator who can pose as his boyfriend while figuring out who is behind the recent attempts on his life. And Zach, struggling to save the business his father built, is just desperate enough to set aside his misgivings and take the job.

But it doesn’t take long for Zach to realize all is not as it seems (and, given that it all seems pretty weird…). The only person he can turn to for help is equally struggling, equally desperate–but a whole lot more experienced–rival PI Flint Carey.

Former Marine Flint has been waiting for Zach to throw in the towel and sell whatever’s left of the Davies Detective Agency to him. Still, he’s unwillingly attracted to the game but inexperienced accountant-turned-shamus, and can’t help offering a helping hand when Zach runs into trouble.

Especially when it’s hard to imagine any worse trouble than having your client murdered.

Puzzle for Two is a standalone novel by Josh Lanyon. It has a contemporary setting but also that Golden Age noir vibe that the author loves to reference in many of her books.

The story is from the POV of accountant-turned-PI Zachariah Davies who, along with his sister Brooke, is struggling to keep the family’s PI business alive. Then, wealthy toymaker Alton Beacher waltzes in, offering $12,000 for Zach to play his boyfriend to find out about the death threats to the already married businessman. Smelling the fish from a mile away but unable to say no because they had ZERO clients, Zach very reluctantly agrees.

The case is more complicated than Zach bargain for. Realizing they need more people to cover the investigation, he begrudgingly hires their rival, the more experienced ex-Marine-turned-PI Flint Carey. The man was willing to help, but was also quick to berate Zach for taking a case that is so patently bogus AND kept pushing offers to buy their detective agency.

The two men were polar opposites. Zach is inexperienced, a little too naive, and the type who avoids telling the truth so as not to hurt. If I’m feeling charitable, I would say he’s the type to see the good in others, but he tested my patience. There were high-tension scenes that could have been resolved had he just been more upfront.

Conflict came from the his interactions with his manipulative ex, Ben. This pest just wouldn’t stop inserting himself in Zach’s life while making it all about himself, AND blatantly ignoring the fact that they already broke up 4 months ago. Had Zach just told him point blank he has no feelings for the guy anymore, it would have saved us from all that drama. Their scenes were not pleasant to go through, and the plot could have done without.

On the other hand, Flint is not really a cynic but more of a realist due to years of experience. He’s blunt and antagonistic with Zach, who returns snark for snark. A typical Josh Lanyon love interest but nicer. A guy who says what he means, doesn’t play games, and always willing to lend a hand to a struggling rival.

I thought the mystery was pretty straightforward but trust the author to throw me in for a loop with twists and turns, suspense, and a whole bunch of questionable characters. While the book isn’t my favorite from the author, I was still completely absorbed because the storytelling is very engaging.

Puzzle For Two has all the usual Josh Lanyon elements but is far from stale. While it had its share of self-absorbed exes, it’s also highly entertaining, humorous, and fun. All in all, a satisfying comfort read from a go-to author.

3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

Soundtrack: Puzzle Pieces
Artist: Tiger Trap
Album: Tiger Trap

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