Secrets and Scrabble: Murder at Pirate’s Cove – Josh Lanyon
Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, Scrabble champion and guy-with-worst-luck-in-the-world-when-it-comes-to-dating, is ready to make a change. So when he learns he’s inherited both a failing bookstore and a falling-down mansion in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove on Buck Island, Rhode Island, it’s full steam ahead!
Sure enough, the village is charming, its residents amusingly eccentric, and widowed police chief Jack Carson is decidedly yummy (though probably as straight as he is stern). However, the bookstore is failing, the mansion is falling down, and there’s that little drawback of finding rival bookseller–and head of the unwelcoming-committee–Trevor Maples dead during the annual Buccaneer Days celebration.
Still, it could be worse. And once Police Chief Carson learns Trevor was killed with the cutlass hanging over the door of Ellery’s bookstore, it is.
I’m super excited about this latest Josh Lanyon series!
I read a lot of mysteries from procedurals to paranormals but I think this might be the first time I’ve come across a true blue MM cozy.
Lanyon loves paying homage to classic golden age mysteries and to the genre as a whole which is something I really liked about her. Many of her MCs are mystery writers and/or bookstore owners, sometimes antique dealers, frequently with love interests involved in law enforcement.
Her latest protagonist’s name is Ellery Page (love the name!). He is a screenwriter, an abysmally bad actor and the owner of Crow’s Nest, a failing bookstore inherited from a long-lost dead relative. He lives in a mansion that’s literally falling apart as we speak. Also inherited from said dead relative.
I liked that the story was written in Ellery’s third person POV instead of a first person POV. As with most of her protagonists, his ‘voice’ brings in those colorful snarky descriptions frequently deployed by writers to make things more dramatic. I had fun going through his thoughts but I wish Lanyon would shake things up and write from the more stoic love interest’s POV too.
As genre tradition dictates, our amateur sleuth pokes his nose into other people’s business in an effort to clear his name of murder. Most of it involved soliciting gossip from people who were very much willing to share. This is safe enough. But then there was one TSTL-ish moment when he did a little B & E on a dead man’s house. Aaargh!!! I was so exasperated! I wanted to smack him in the head for stupidity.
We also meet Police Chief Jack Carson, the lead investigator of the case who time and time again warned Ellery to stay out of trouble. Carson is your usual Lanyon love interest. At first glance, an abrasive man of few words who as the story progressed would reveal his hidden not-so-bad-afterall side. This happens in almost every Lanyon book but somehow I’m not tired of it yet. I still get a thrill whenever the ‘good’ side is revealed
He and Ellery oh so slowly edged towards a tentative friendship. And that’s all there is. This story has no romance and zero steam. This is a big plus for me.
The story is set in a quaint seaside town of Pirate’s Cove. I’m the type of reader who typically gloss over descriptions of places so I’m glad that the book was able to establish a sense of place and town culture without boring me with too much details. We are also introduced to a fair share of quirky town fixtures sure to pop up in many of the books.
I had a great time letting the story unfold. The mystery was a good one. I couldn’t guess who the murderer was until the very end. I only realized on hindsight that major clues were dropped and I totally missed them.
Murder at Pirate’s Cove is a quintessential cozy. Even with the templates fully in place, they do not detract to how enjoyable everything is. The author was able to keep things fresh and engaging. All in all, this is a charming little addition to her oeuvre.
Recommended if you like amateur sleuths who couldn’t lie to save their life, pirate cosplay murders and puppies who wouldn’t quit.
Josh Lanyon books here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Holmes & Moriarity: The Boy With The Painful Tattoo – Josh Lanyon
It’s moving day at Chez Holmes. Somehow, against Kit’s better instincts, he and J.X. are setting up house together. But while J.X. is off at a writing conference, Kit unpacks a crate that should contain either old books or new china. It doesn’t. Within the mounds of green Styrofoam popcorn is a dead body. A very dead body.
There goes the neighborhood.
Poor Kit! Forced to interact with JX’s ex-wife and her kid. I’d have my hackles up if I were in his shoes.
Kit, who for some mysterious reason is adored by the wonderful JX Moriarity and we’ll just have to take Josh Lanyon‘s word for it, putters around the new house, discovers a dead body inside his crate and does exactly the opposite of what JX, an ex-cop, tells him to do. Typical.
Also while his boyfriend is still away at some writer’s conference, Kit meets his biggest fan and gains a stalker who shows up at his doorstep bearing gifts and forces him to endure unwanted visits. Was again given dire warning by said boyfriend not to let the creep in. It, of course, went unheeded. Ugh, I totally don’t want to deal with Jerry.
We all know that Kit could be unlikable but he has redeeming values which at his worst sometimes barely redeems him at all. I don’t expect him to completely pull his head out of his ass but I have faith he’ll get better, eventually. I keep hoping really, for JX’s sake.
In all fairness to Kit, he’s really trying.
Also complaining about him is like me grousing about my demon imp cat, Spook, who gives everyone the evil eye and avoids people like they’re diseased. She still gets a hug anyway.
Lanyon takes a risk by having an MC with a difficult personality which makes for an interesting experience. I agree with one reviewer who said that an unlikable character doesn’t mean bad writing and Kit as a narrator was certainly very entertaining. The Holmes & Moriarity series took some of that cozy mystery elements as found in the Miss Butterwith books and made it gay and snarky. The mystery, this time, was much better executed and more enjoyable than the last although the tattoo in the title had no significance whatsoever.
That Adrien English cameo!
Also, Rachel is the best secondary character in the entire series! I love her bloodthirsty drive to put Christopher Holmes back on top of the bestsellers list. Her attempts to reinvent Kit were the funniest scenes in the series.
Relationshipwise, the couple took major steps forward and since I’m assured they’ll get there (because it says so on the blurb of the fourth book) I enjoyed their journey more and how they grow as a couple without worrying that JL might decide to throw a curveball and send them their separate ways. But who knows, she just might.
The Boy With The Painful Tattoo is Lanyon‘s take on those grim Scandinavian mysteries minus the snow. Despite his aches and pains, Kit put his “brilliant criminal mind” to use and with JX’s help, solved the mystery, put his house in order, fend off a stalker and survive a day at the zoo. Still not writing those books, tho.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits