Secrets and Scrabble: Secret At Skull House – Josh Lanyon
Ellery Page is back–and in hot water again!
Unlike everyone else in Pirate’s Cove, Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village’s only mystery bookstore, is anything but thrilled when famed horror author Brandon Abbott announces he’s purchased legendary Skull House and plans to live there permanently.
Ellery and Brandon have history. Their relationship ended badly and the last thing Ellery wants is a chance to patch things up–especially when his relationship with Police Chief Jack Carson is just getting interesting. But then, maybe Brandon isn’t all that interested in getting back together either, because he seems a lot more interested in asking questions about the bloodstained past of his new home than discussing a possible future with Ellery. What is Brandon really up to?
Ellery will have to unscramble that particular puzzle post haste. Because after his former flame disappears following their loud and public argument, Ellery seems to be Police Chief Carson’s first–and only–suspect.
***This story contains no on-screen sex or violence
Once again, Ellery Page is the prime suspect for murder. The victim was his very, very unlikable ex, Brandon Abbott. I’m sure no tears were shed for this guy who always threw shade at Ellery every chance he got.
You couldn’t help but love Ellery. Any other person would have sold the failing bookstore, packed his bags and hightailed it out of that murder island. Not Ellery. He was very determined to stick it out and make it work.
He has a tendency to not so much as work his way into things but more of stumble his way into them. Like how his play became an unexpected comedic success when it was actually written as a serious story. Or suddenly realizing his scrabble pieces were pointing him in oddly case-specific directions.
Jack Carson, the police chief, hinted here and there that there might be romantic interest in his Person Of Interest. He even outright asked him for a date. For which I’m giving a halle-fucking-luya about time! because the hot/cold treatment is killing Ellery and the rest of us poor readers here.
I know I said before I would be okay if him and Jack will just be friends. Let me add a caveat that this is as long as the author don’t string us along in the future books.
However, if these two keep on giving off those uber-tight USTs, which, for a book without anything explicit, Josh Lanyon managed to make quite palpable, I would riot if they don’t end up together.
And that ending! Put us out of our misery please!
Okay, so the mystery. I didn’t care about who killed Brandon Abbott. Like I said, the guy was an asshole. What kept me going was, first, the engaging storytelling coupled with great narration. The author always had a way of keeping me glued to the book. This is especially important because she always puts a lot of problematic characters. That’s why her books are a hit or miss for me. Mostly hit so far.
Second, I enjoyed how she made Buck Island come to life. Ellery is surrounded by characters. As in “s/he is such a character!“. I think this is one of the perks of reading cozies, you get the quirky and the cutesy.
Many of these people were native to Buck Island, The island transplants were forever seen as outsiders. Ellery is somewhere in between. His family has been in Buck Island since the beginning but he was from New York. This created an interesting dynamic between him and the rest of the islanders.
Buck Island was built by pirates. There were some historical mansions own by the original founding families scattered throughout. One of these houses was own by the Page family. Skull House was also one of these historical structures and was the site of a murder and mysterious disappearance 20 years ago.
I really liked how the local folklore and history were interwoven with the mystery. There were parallels between the past and present and true to form, Ellery stumbles into the one person connecting them all.
But you know, if you think about it, for an island this small, there seemed to be too many murderers lurking about. Do cozies, or mysteries for that matter, always have to be about a murder? Could they just be about pirate treasures instead?
At this point in time, Ellery should permanently change his FB / Twitter status to “I didn’t do it.”
Find out how Ellery fared as a first-time murder suspect in Secrets and Scrabble book 1, Murder At Pirate’s Cove. Review here.
Read reviews of Josh Lanyon’s hits and and misses here.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
Soundtrack: I Didn’t Do It
Artist: Larry Warren
Album: I Don’t Want To Sleep Because I’m In Wonderful Colorado!0
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 bits0
I found this tag on Chelle’s Book Ramblings . It’s simple and fun. I thought I would put my own spin on it and make it a weekly thing.0