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    SERIES REVIEW: The Wyandot County Mysteries Books 1 & 2 by Marshall Thornton

    The Wyandot County Mysteries: The Less Than Spectacular Times of Henry Milch – Marshall Thornton

    A new mystery series from the award-winning author of the Boystown and Pinx Mystery series.

    Things have not been going well for Henry Milch. After a Saturday night clubbing in his beloved West Hollywood, he took one pill too many and ended up banished to northern lower Michigan to live on a farm with his ultra-conservative grandmother. It was that or rehab.

    While working a part-time job for the local land conservancy he stumbles across a dead body in the snow—as if things couldn’t get worse. But then things take a turn for the better, there’s a reward for information leading the man’s killer. All Henry has to do is find the murderer, claim the reward and he can go back to his real life in L.A.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Town
    Artist: CASTLEBEAT
    Album: VHS


    The Wyandot County Mysteries: A Fabulous Unfabulous Summer for Henry Milch- Marshall Thornton

    In the second Wyandot County Mystery, things are still not going well for Henry Milch. While stuck in Northern Lower Michigan helping his Nana Cole recover from a stroke, he learns that her favorite pastor has been killed. When Nana Cole asks him to investigate, he refuses—until she offers him money. Money that will help him get back to real life in West Hollywood. That sets Henry off on a journey that includes: off-key choir rehearsals, pole barns, bad haircuts, a hunky doctor and too many get-well-soon casseroles.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Big City Dreams
    Artist: Might Not feat. Sofia Insua
    Album:


    The Wyandot County Mysteries by Marshall Thornton is an LGBTQIA+ murder mystery series I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. It did not have the usual romantic subplot, nor is it cozy. It contains many undesirable elements, yet I was completely hooked!

    The series is set in the early 2000s, so people watched cable TV, landlines were still ubiquitous, cell phones were flip phones, and the It gadgets were those colored Macbooks that look so retro now. The news often talks about the war, and people would mention updates about sons or grandsons deployed in the Middle East. 

    The star of the series, Henry Milch, well, I wouldn’t say he’s a likable character. Vapid, spectacularly self-absorbed, has nothing but uncharitable comments about everyone. In another story, Henry would be the bitchy ex the main character would dump to be with the love interest. Or that friend who’s always a hot mess

    Henry used to live in LA, but after an incident that left him with costly hospital bills, he’s broke and now lives with his Nana Cole in a small town in Wyandot County. Henry hates it. One reason is he’s shoved back in the closet. He has big plans to return to LA once he has enough money. And this kicks off the first mystery.

    The Less Than Spectacular Times of Henry Milch opens the series. Henry discovered the dead body of Sammy Hart, an out-and-proud gay man. The police weren’t making any efforts to solve the case, so Sammy’s friends offered $15,000 to anyone with information about the killer.

    Jumping at the chance to earn the reward, Henry decided to investigate, calling upon the knowledge he picked up from CSI and True Crime.

    In A Fabulous Unfabulous Summer for Henry Milch, Henry was offered $2000 by his Nana to find out what really happened to the dead pastor of their church. The man was bludgeoned to death. The police said he was robbed by a meth addict, but Henry thought otherwise.

    Still lacking enough funds to move to LA, Henry decided to humor his grandmother and started asking enough questions in an attempt to earn the money.

    He struck an antagonistic friendship with Opal, a bisexual a friend of the late Sammy Hart, who helped pooled money for the reward. Henry calls her only when he needs something, and Opal never hesitates to call him on his BS. Born and raised in the area, Opal knows everyone, including suppliers of illicit substances.

    Content warning: Henry is very much in denial about his drug addiction, and he’s frequently popping pills. In one very, very gross scene, he seriously contemplated fishing out the pills he puked floating in the toilet bowl so they don’t go to waste. He came to his senses when he realized that’s what drug addicts do, and he tells himself he’s not an addict.

    He sleeps with a few guys, most of them forgettable. One time, he dated a gorgeous doctor, a genuinely nice guy very much attracted to Henry. In your usual MM romance, this doctor would be The One. Of course, Henry fucked it up by refusing to give up his pills after the good doctor offered to help him overcome his addiction.

    Henry’s relationship with his mother and grandmother is complicated. His mother goes from boyfriend to boyfriend and has a casual parenting style, a.k.a. mostly absent. His mother and grandmother rarely agreed on anything, but surprisingly, they did when it came to him.

    Nana Cole is from one of the old families of the county, with typical Christian conservative views. They frequently butt heads. But even with their differences, it’s obvious that Nana Cole cares for her grandchild. Henry is determined not to like his Nana, but he also did not abandon her when she had her stroke.

    As an amateur sleuth, Henry notices things that don’t add up but have zero finesse in dealing with people. He just point-blank asks questions. He’s also not above using people to get what he wants. Given his bull-in-a-china shop approach, it was a wonder Henry got answers from the conservative folks of the county.

    With such a flawed character taking the lead, the entire thing wouldn’t have worked. But the author magically made the storytelling so damned engaging, even if I didn’t like Henry at all. He takes us to a scathingly humorous fish-out-of-water view of small-town Michigan with many comparisons and palpable longing for the big city way of life.

    Many times, I would think, “What a bitchy thing to say, Henry!” while at the same time thinking, “He’s got a point, though.” This leads us to another content warning: Henry’s views about religion and small-town life may offend some.

    The Wyandot County Mysteries is one of those mystery stories where I just enjoyed tagging along with our unlikely sleuth, not really caring about who killed who. The cases propel Henry to begrudgingly learn more about his hometown and its people. Twice, he’s on the cusp of leaving, but something or other would prevent him from hightailing it to LA.

    Would this snarky twink finally say adios to Wyandot to party and play in LA, or would he feel enough of a connection to the place to call it home?

    Maybe the third time’s a charm for our boy. Looking forward to Book 3. Because one thing about a hot mess like Henry: he’s never boring!

    P.S.

    The Wyandot County Mysteries should be read in order.


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    THE WYANDOT COUNTY MYSTERIESKindle | Audiobook

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    SERIES REVIEW: Secrets and Scrabble Books 6-7 by Josh Lanyon

    Secrets and Scrabble: Lament at Loon Landing – Josh Lanyon

    Fakes, folk music, and ghost fires

    When legendary folk singer Lara Fairplay agrees to make her comeback appearance at Pirate Cove’s annual maritime music festival, everyone in the quaint seaside village is delighted—including mystery bookstore owner and sometimes amateur sleuth, Ellery Page.

    Lara is scheduled to perform a recently discovered piece of music attributed to “the father of American music,” Stephen Foster.

    Several mysterious accidents later, Ellery is less delighted—especially when it becomes clear to him that someone plans to silence the celebrity songbird forever.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Loon
    Artist: Volody
    Album


    Secrets and Scrabble: Death at the Deep Dive – Josh Lanyon

    When Pirate Cove’s mystery bookstore owner and sometimes-amateur sleuth Ellery Page discovers a vintage diving collection bag full of antique gold coins tucked away for safe keeping in the stockroom of The Crow’s Nest, it sets off a series of increasingly dangerous events, culminating in meeting Police Chief Jack Carson’s parents. Er… Culminating in murder.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Dive
    Artist: Olivia Dean
    Album


    Secrets and Scrabble is a charming cozy mystery set in small-town Pirates’ Cove starring former actor and now bookseller Ellery Page, and his boyfriend, Police Chief Jack Carson.

    At this point, the series is now more cozy than mysterious. The experience more a pleasant visit to old (very nosy) friends than an exercise at sleuthing. The books are highly entertaining, the characters are mostly septuagenarians running a very, very efficient gossip mill, and Ellery and Jack are uber-endearing as a couple.

    For Lament at Loon Landing, the island is graced by the presence of an ex-con folk singer and her colorful entourage. With death threats hanging over her head, Ellery is voluntold to find out if the threats are real. Our boy now has a reputation as a sleuth, and as much as it exasperates Jack, the chief is still the supportive boyfriend who helps Ellery with tips a.k.a. case notes here and there.

    Death at the Deep Dive circles back to the doubloons Ellery and Jack found during their diving date in Book 5, Body at Buccaneer’s Bay. The matriarch of one of the old families, the Shantys, hired Ellery to find out who killed her brother, the former owner of the doubloons.

    For both books, the culprits were very obvious. I’m not sure if author Josh Lanyon is mirroring the real world, where the main suspect is usually the criminal. It was all a matter of tagging along until Ellery connected the dots.

    Not to say the mysteries are not intriguing because they are. It’s how they weave through island life, moving Ellery through various peoples and locales of Pirate’s Cove. It makes everything more immersive.

    In Book 6, the conflict between the MCs is Jack torn between his duty as the police chief and his personal connections with the people involved in the case. I am Team Jack here because the Chief is really just doing his job.

    For Book 7, not much relationship conflict here. Things are getting more serious between Ellery and Jack. The ending was a super cute surprise!

    Lament at Loon Landing and Death at the Deep Dive kept Secrets and Scrabble‘s cozy small-town magic going strong. The mysteries might not be mindboggling, but overall, I’m eager for another exciting stay.


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    Secrets and Scrabble

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    SERIES REVIEW: Secrets and Scrabble Books 3-5 by Josh Lanyon

    Secrets and Scrabble: Mystery at the Masquerade – Josh Lanyon

    Love is in the Salt Sea Air–and So is Murder!

    Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village’s only mystery bookstore, the Crow’s Nest, is both flattered and bemused when he’s invited to the annual Marauder’s Masquerade, the best and biggest social event of the season in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove, Rhode Island. The event is hosted by the wealthy Marguerite Bloodworth-Ainsley—a descendant of the famed pirate Tom Blood.

    Ellery doesn’t even know Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley—nor, it turns out—does Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley know him. But Marguerite’s son, Julian wants to know Ellery. Julian, handsome, rich and engaging, is a huge mystery buff. In fact, he’s bought quite a few books at the Crow’s Nest bookstore, but never quite worked up the nerve to ask Ellery out.

    As his relationship with Police Chief Carson seems to be dead in the water, Ellery is grateful for a little flattering attention from the village’s most eligible bachelor, but any hopes of romance hit the shoals when Julian is accused of murdering his mother’s unlikable second husband during the Masquerade’s annual ghost hunt in the family’s spooky cemetery


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Only for You
    Artist: Heartless Bastards
    Album: Arrow


    Secrets and Scrabble: Scandal at the Salty Dog – Josh Lanyon

    Mystery Stalks the Cobbled Streets of Pirate’s Cove

    Who or what is haunting elderly recluse Juliet Blackwell, what does it have to do with mysterious goings-on at the Salty Dog Pub–and why is any of it mystery bookshop owner Ellery Page’s problem? According to sometimes boyfriend Police Chief Jack Carson, it’s not Ellery’s problem, and Ellery should stop asking awkward questions before it’s too late.

    Ellery couldn’t agree more, but it’s hard to say no when someone is as frightened as old Mrs. Blackwell. Mrs. Blackwell insists the ghost of long dead pirate Rufus Blackwell has come to avenge himself on the last member of his treacherous clan.

    Before Ellery can say, “Yikes!” Mrs. Blackwell takes a tumble down the grand staircase of her spooky mansion, and it’s up to Ellery to find who is trying to kill his eccentric customer.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Now That I’ve Found You
    Artist: Liam Gallagher
    Album: Why Me? Why Not.


    Secrets and Scrabble: Body at Buccaneer’s Bay – Josh Lanyon

    Dead Men Tell No Tales

    Mystery Bookshop owner Ellery Page and Police Chief Jack Carson are diving for the legendary sunken pirate galleon Blood Red Rose when they discover an old fashioned diver’s suit, water-damaged and encrusted with barnacles. Further examination reveals the 19th Century suit contains a 21st Century body.

    Who is the mysterious diver? No one seems to be missing from the quaint and cozy town of Pirate’s Cove. Was he really diving for pirate’s gold? And if not, what exactly did he do to earn that bullet hole in his skull?


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Every Side of You
    Artist: Vance Joy
    Album: In Our Own Sweet Time


    Secrets and Scrabble is a cozy mystery that is as adorable as advertised. The first two books, Murder at Pirate’s Cove and Secret At Skull House, I was admittedly not that into the series just yet since the first 2 cases were similar. Our hero Ellery Page was accused of murder twice.

    The third time’s the charm because Book 3, Mystery at the Masquerade, I was all in! Here, reluctant amateur sleuth Ellery was asked to prove his masquerade ball date’s innocence. This had him crossing paths with the one-time date and more-than-friend friend, Police Chief Jack Carson.

    Each mystery put one of Buck Island’s founding families under scrutiny and took Ellery to midnight forays in centuries old crypts, tunnels, and old houses. I totally love the setting! Buck Island was founded by pirates who built grand houses, and secret tunnels. It’s a great place to explore.

    To live in? I’m not sure. The series is chockful of very spry, very gossipy septuagenarians, and as per Ellery, it’s a fishbowl. Nosy as they are, the supporting cast is very entertaining. At this point, the initially maligned Ellery, a transplant from New York but a descendant of the founding father, Horatio Page, is now a respected member of the community.

    The next two books, Scandal at the Salty Dog and Body in Buccaneer’s Bay, Ellery is roped in to investigate since he now has the reputation as an amateur sleuth. To me, the hallmarks of a great mystery novel is how much I enjoy tagging along with the detective, regardless of whether or not I care about catching the culprit. And Secrets and Scrabble made it so much fun to tag along with Ellery and experience Pirate Cove through his eyes.

    Ellery is a fantastic MC for a cozy! Lovable, kind-hearted, loyal, and always willing to lend a hand even if greatly inconvenienced. Not overly quirky or introverted, abysmally bad actor, okay playwright, a struggling bookstore owner, and a devoted human to Watson, the black mixed-breed puppy. (I audiobooked this and narrator Matt Haynes’s Watson barks are ridiculously adorbs!)

    He went through the trademark Josh Lanyon hot/cold treatment in love interest Jack. The whys of this were later revealed in the last part of Book 3 through Jack’s impassioned speech about his tragic past. The chief is one the best cop boyfriends in the author’s roster of gruff cop boyfriends because he’s not an asshole like the others. The romance might be low-key but certainly very cute!

    Secrets and Scrabble is a pirate-flavored cozy mystery series that continues to charm me with intriguing cases, quirky characters, lovable MCs and an island full of secrets and hidden treasures yet to be discovered. With a delightful slow-burn romance as the cherry on top, I’m completely onboard for the rest of the journey!

    P.S.

    Secrets and Scrabble should be read in order. Witness a pirate cosplay murder in Murder at Pirate’s Cove. Find out how Ellery fared as a suspect in yet another murder in Secret At Skull House.


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    MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE
    SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG
    BODY AT BUCCANEER”S BAY

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