Fatal Shadowsby Josh Lanyon
Adrien English runs a small bookstore in Pasadena which is reputed to have the largest collection of gay and gothic whodunnits. But mystery invades his own life one morning when his best friend is found stabbed to death and he is seen as the most likely subject. A nail-biting thriller with plenty of twists and turns.
I Love A Mystery
- MLR Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- New Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.53(d)
Read an Excerpt
Cops before breakfast. Before coffee even. As if Mondays weren't bad enough. I stumbled downstairs, unlocked the glass front doors, shoved back the ornate security gate, and let them in: two plainclothes detectives.
They identified themselves with a show of badges. Detective Chan was older, a little paunchy, a little rumpled, smelling of Old Spice and cigarettes as he brushed by me. The other one, Detective Riordan, was big and blonde, with a neo-Nazi haircut and tawny eyes. Actually I had no idea what color his eyes were, but they were intent and unblinking, as though waiting for a sign of activity from the mouse hole.
"I'm afraid we have some bad news for you, Mr. English," Detective Chan said, as I started down the aisle of books towards my office.
I kept walking, as though I could walk away from whatever they were about to tell me.
"...Concerning an employee of yours. A Mr. Robert Hersey." I slowed down, stopped there in front of the Gothic section. A dozen damsels in distress--and flimsy negligees--caught my eyes, mid-flight from unseen peril. I turned to face the cops. Their expressions were suitably grave.
"What about Robert?" There was a cold sinking in my gut. I wished I'd stopped for shoes. I felt un-braced for bad news, barefoot and unshaven. Of course it was bad news. Anything to do with Robert was bound to be bad news.
"He's dead." That was the big one, Riordan. He Man.
"Dead," I repeated.
"You don't seem surprised."
"Of course I'm surprised." I was, wasn't I? I felt kind of numb. "What happened? How did he die?"
They continued to eye me in that careful, assessing way.
"He was murdered," Detective Chan said.
My heart began to slug against my ribs. My wrists and ankles felt weak, heavy.
"I need to sit down," I said.
I turned and headed back towards my office, putting my hand out to keep myself from careening into the crowded shelves. Behind me came the measured tread of their feet, just audible over the singing in my ears.
I pushed open my office door, sat down heavily at the desk and opened a drawer, groping inside. The phone on my desk began to ring, jangling loudly in the paperback silence. I ignored it, found my pills, managed to get the top off and palmed two. Washed them down with a swallow of whatever was in the can sitting there from yesterday. Tab. Warm Tab. It had a bracing effect.
"I'm sorry," I told LA's finest. "I've got a weak heart."
Chan glanced at Riordan.
The phone, which had stopped ringing, started up again. "Aren't you going to answer that?" Riordan inquired after the fourth ring.
I shook my head. "How did---? Do you know who--?"
The phone stopped ringing. The silence was even more jarring.
"Hersey was found stabbed to death last night in the alley behind his apartment," Chan answered.
Riordan said, without missing a beat, "What can you tell us about Hersey? How well did you know him? How long had he worked for you?"
"I've known Robert since high school. He's worked for me for about a year."
"Any problems there? What kind of an employee was Hersey?" I blinked up at Chan. "He was okay," I said at last.
"What kind of friend was he?" Riordan asked.
"Sorry?" It was hard to focus on their questions.
"Were you sleeping with him?"
I opened my mouth but nothing came out.
"Were you lovers?" Chan asked, glancing at Riordan.
"But you are homosexual?" Riordan, straight as a stick figure, summing me up with those cool eyes, and finding me lacking in all the right stuff. "I'm gay. What of it?"
"And Hersey was homosexual?"
"And two plus two equals a murder charge?" The pills kicking in, I felt stronger. Strong enough to get angry. "We were friends, that's all. I don't know who Robert was sleeping with. He slept with a lot of people."
I still couldn't take it in. Robert murdered? Beaten up, yes. Arrested, sure. Maybe even dead in a car crash or by some autoerotic misadventure. But murdered? It seemed so unreal. I kept wanting to ask if they were sure?
I must have been staring fixedly into space because Riordan asked abruptly, "Are you all right, Mr. English? Do you need a doctor?"
"I'm all right."
"Could you give us the names of Hersey's -- uh -- men friends?" Chan asked. The too polite 'men friends' put my teeth on edge.
"No. Robert and I didn't socialize much."
Riordan took his turn at the net. "I thought you were friends?"
"We were. But"
They waited. Chan glanced at Riordan. Now I knew the dynamics of this duo. Chan was the front man, Riordan was the brains.
I said cautiously, "We were friends, but Robert worked for me.
Sometimes that put a strain on our relationship."
"Just that we worked together all day; we wanted to see different people at night."
"Uh huh. When was the last time you saw Mr. Hersey?"
"We had dinner--" I paused at the expectant looks on their faces before finishing lamely, "and then Robert left to meet a friend."
"He didn't say."
"When was this?" barked Riordan.
"When was what?"
Patiently, long-suffering professional to civilian, Riordan re-phrased, "When and where did you have dinner?"
" The Blue Parrot on Santa Monica Blvd. It was about six."
"And when did you leave?"
"Robert left about seven. I stayed and had a drink at the bar."
"You have no idea who he left to meet? A first name? A nick name?"
"Do you know if he was going home first or they were meeting somewhere?"
"I don't..." I frowned. "They were meeting somewhere, I think. Robert looked at his watch and said he was late, it would take him ten minutes. If he was going back home it would have taken him half an hour."
Chan jotted all this down in a little notebook.
"Anything else you can tell us, Mr. English? Did Mr. Hersey ever indicate he was afraid of anyone?"
"No. Of course not." I thought this over. "What makes you think he wasn't mugged?"
"Fourteen stab wounds to his upperbody and face."
I could feel the blood drain out of my face again.
"Those kind of wounds generally indicate prior acquaintance," Riordan drawled.
I don't remember exactly all they asked, after that. Irrelevant details, I felt at the time: where I'd gone to school, how long I'd owned the shop, what did I do with my spare time? I think they verified the spelling of my name. "Adrien, with an 'e'," I told Chan. He almost, but not quite, smirked. They thanked me for my cooperation, told me they would be in touch.
Before he left my office, Riordan picked up the empty can on my desk. "Tab. I didn't know they still made that."
He crushed it in one big fist and tossed it in the trash basket.
The phone started ringing before I could relock the front door. "Adrien, mon cher," fluted the high, clear voice of Claude La Pierra. Claude owns Café Noir on Hillhurst Ave. He's big and black and beautiful. I've known him about three years. I'm convinced he's a Southland native, but he affects a kind of gender-confused French like a Left Bank expatriate with severe memory loss. "I just heard. It's too ghastly. I still can't believe it. Tell me I'm dreaming."
"The police just left."
"The police? Mon Dieu! What did they say? Do they know who did it?"
"I don't think so."
"What did they tell you? What did you tell them? Did you tell them about me?"
"No, of course not."
A long, noisy sigh of relief down the phone line. "Certainement pas! What is there to tell? But what about you? Are you all right?"
"I don't know. I haven't had time to think."
"You must be in shock. Come by for lunch."
"I can't, Claude." The thought of food made me want to throw up. "I -- there's no one to cover."
"You have to eat, Adrien. Don't be so bourgeois. Close the shop for an hour. Close it for the day!"
"I'll think about it," I promised vaguely.
No sooner had I hung up on Claude than the phone rang again. I ignored it, padding upstairs to shower.
Once upstairs I sank down on the couch, my head in my hands. Rob dead. it seemed both unbelievable and inevitable, A dozen images flashed through my brain in some macabre mental slide show: Robert at sixteen, in his West Valley Academy tennis whites. Robert and I, fumbling and groping, in the Ambassador Hotel the night of the Senior Prom. Robert on his wedding day. Robert last night, his face unfamiliar and distorted by anger.
No chance now to ever make it up. No chance to say good-bye. I wiped my eyes on my shirt sleeve, listened to the muffled ring of the phone downstairs. I told myself to get up and get dressed. Told myself I had a business to run. I continued to sit there, my mind racing ahead, looking for trouble. I could see it everywhere, looming up, pointing me out of the lineup.
For seven years I had lived above the shop in beautiful downtown Pasadena. Cloak and Dagger Books. New, used and vintage mysteries, with the largest selection of gay and gothic whodunits in Los Angeles. We held a workshop for mystery writers on Tuesday night. We were talking about putting out a monthly newsletter. And I had just sold my own first novel, Murder Will Out, about a gay Shakespearean actor who tries to solve a murder during a production of Macbeth.
Business was good. Life was good. But especially business was good. So good that I could barely keep up with it, let alone work on my next book. That's when Robert had turned up in my life again.
His marriage to Tara was over, and getting out of it had cost what Rob laughingly called a 'queen's ransom.' After six years and two-point-five children he was back from the Heartland of America, hard up and hard on. At the time it seemed like serendipity.
On automatic pilot I rose from the sofa, went into the bathroom to finish my shower and shave, interrupted by the heavy hand of the law on my door buzzer at 8:05 a.m.
In the steamy surface of the mirror I grimaced at my reflection, hearing again that condescending, "But you are a homosexual?" As in, "But you are a lower life form?" So what had Riordan seen? Blue eyes, longish dark hair, a pale bony face. What was it in my Anglo-Norman ancestry that screamed 'faggot' to the uninitiated? Like those "How to Recognize a Homosexual" articles circa the Swinging Sixties. I had one pinned to the fridge for a time with my favorite clues highlighted:
Delicate physique (or overly muscular)
Striking unusual poses
Gushy, flowery conversation, i.e., "wild," "mad," etc.
What's funny about that? Mel asked irritably pulling the list down one day.
Isn't that on the list? Queer, sense of humor? Mel, do you think I'm homosexual?
So what was Detective Riordan's first clue?
I got in the shower, soaped up, rinsed off, toweled down. I dressed in jeans, white shirt and tapestry vest, and went back downstairs.
The phone had apparently never stopped ringing. I answered it. It was a reporter. Bruce Green from Boytimes. I declined an interview and hung up. I plugged in the coffee machine, unlocked the front doors again, and phoned a temp agency.
Meet the Author
A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is the first of five books in the Adrien English series. Here we meet Adrien, a bookstore owner with a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Jake, the detective who investigates the murder of Adrien's friend. More importantly, Adrien and Jake meet - and that meeting is the beginning of a love story that will bring you back to these books again and again. Great mystery, great romance, great writing - what more could one require? I have read the entire series three times, and have no doubt I will go back for a fourth helping.
The first volume in Lanyon's contemporary mystery series is a lot of fun: suspenseful, but not gruesome, populated with fascinating and well-rounded characters. Too many mysteries star flawed, self-destructive protagonists, so Adrien -- who is thoroughly likeable and a nice guy -- is a welcome change. Looking forward to the next book. -- lyradora
This a completely wonderful story. but much to my surprise I had read it before under the title "Adrien English mysteries" I liked it just as much the second time, but why had they changed the titles? Strange.
I have read a lot of Josh Lanyon's books. I have enjoyed all of them. They are mysterious enough to keep you inerested but no bored. I like the obscure quotes. Some of them really hit home for me. Keep writing Josh and I will keep reading.
Very good. I couldn't put it down. I immediately bought book #2 after I finished reading.
~Reviewed by ANN & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog I could do nothing else but read this book in a single sitting and after I was done, I was still thinking about it, which prompted me to rush out and get book two. It’s like crack! ~ Under the Covers The Adrien English Mysteries have been on my radar for such a long time that I decided to finally take the plunge. Though FATAL SHADOWS isn’t the first of Lanyon’s work I’ve read, it is the first full-length one and it wholly consumed me the whole time I was reading it. I could do nothing else but read this book in a single sitting and after I was done, I was still thinking about it, which prompted me to rush out and get book two. It’s like crack! Adrien English is a gay bookseller by day and a mystery writer at night. The cops have shown up telling him that his best friend has been murdered. Adrien is receiving creepy phone calls and weird gifts from a secret admirer and senses that someone is stalking him. But the cops actually think he is trying to divert attention from himself as he is one of their prime suspects. Adrien and homophobic homicide detective Jake Riordan have an interesting relationship. The thing I love about Lanyon’s writing is that he infuses dry humor in the most unexpected places. It works so well because it’s clear that Adrien and Riordan are two opposite. How do you get a homophobic cop and an intrinsic gay man together? Lanyon uses humor to break down whatever barrier stands in the way and by the end of the book, readers feel as if this could be the beginning of something new and special. I am very intrigued about Riordan’s S/M encounters. That will definitely spice things up and I hope that Lanyon explores Jake’s character more fully. I am desperate to learn more about him! As for the mystery aspect, I loved it! I was able to figure out the killer early on, but interestingly enough, it never diminished the interest I had in this book. In fact, I think it made me read faster because I wanted to verify if I was right or not. In the end, FATAL SHADOWS drew me in like beacon. It didn’t let me go until I flipped that last page and I’m sure that it will be the start of a whole new obsession. I’m jumping right in!
Really good book, i couldn't put it down highly recommended.
This is one of my all time favorite series. Certainly my favorite of Josh Lanyon's, which is saying something since he's a brilliant author. This is a gay mystery about an author/book store owner named Adrien who discovers a body in his building. Detective Jake Riordon is put on the case and knows Adrien is hiding something. From there we're given pieces of the mystery go figure out while taking the journey of one the most heart breaking beautiful love stories I've ever read. Sometimes you read a series that the mere mention of the names bring back feelings and memories that you will have forever. This series does that for me every time the characters or titles are mentioned. Like some others have said this is a classic that I will love forever in this genre. I couldn't recommend a series more.
A gay mystery classic.
This was my first book I read by Josh Lanyon and I have to say I am glad I bought it. Fatal Shadows is the first book of the Adrien English mysteries. Basically in the book Adrien's friend from high school is murdered and Adrien plays both the suspect and a wannabe detective. All the while picks up a lover in the chaos, but what good mystery doesn't have romance in it.
In the first book in the Adrien English Mystery Series we are introduced to Adrien, owner of Cloak and Dagger Books and author of the Jason Leland Mysteries. Adrien's friend has been murdered and it seems Adrien's a suspect. Adrien doesn't trust the investigating detectives, especially the frustrating (in more ways than one) Detective Jake Riordan - who seems to have a few secrets of his own. Adrien decides to take matters in his own hand and sets out to do some investigating on his own. When there's another murder, Adrien believes he may be next on that list. Adrien's a delightful character with a lively sense of humor and an overactive imagination. Josh writes a fun story, entertaining us with colorful, well-developed secondary characters and a thrilling mystery. The book has several laugh-out-loud moments, including my favorite when Jake catches the sleuthing Adrien in a closet. (Oh, the irony!) 'That's one of the oldest tricks in the world, Adrien-with-an-e.' And don't think the story's all 'fun and games' - there's murder, mystery and mayhem (my three favorite M's) that will keep you firmly glued to the edge of your seat. And then there's Jake, a sexy homicide detective who's out to get Adrien ... I mean the murderer. About the Series: Josh Lanyon is the author of the popular 'Adrien English Mysteries' featuring the delightful amateur sleuth and bookshop owner Adrien English and the sexy Homicide Detective, Jake Riordan. Josh's AE series is written with a refreshingly-brisk style and razor-sharp sense of humor, filling the story with a colorful mix of characters and suspects that all seem to have their own little secrets. Adrien is a character that is easy to fall in love with - intelligent and determined, witty and generous. His generous nature leads to all sorts of complications in the latest AE mystery 'The Hell you Say.' I would have to say this series is one of my favorites right now, if not my favorite. The books have so much to offer -- mystery and suspense, romance and the angst, heartwarming and heartbreaking with all the heartpounding excitement you would expect from a murder mystery. The books will appeal to all mystery lovers, despite their orientation.
Josh Lanyon has created a classic duo for a detective series. Adrien and Jake bring two different views to crimesolving and the dynamic tension of what might be relationship between a gay writer who¿s very comfortable with himself and a hard boiled closet case cop gives this story all the romantic suspense of something like Moonlighting combined with a clear, vivid portrait of how political ideas and discrimination affect lives. This book is a must read for anyone who¿s either gay or has a gay friend or relative. The book¿s about life as much as it is about murder and it¿s so brilliant crafted that you don¿t need to identify directly with either character to understand or feel for him. Then again I do understand Adrien very much from within because I know what it¿s like to be a writer. I know what his advantages are in the detecting business. Writer¿s are observant. Writers know human nature in a less cynical way than cops do. Writers don¿t have the blind spot that comes from a cop¿s need to make quick friend foe identification in dangerous situations. The writer¿s going to see what the cop doesn¿t and the cop¿s going to notice things the writer¿s not. That¿s binocular vision in a detecting team. That¿s a searing insight into everything in the world of the novel and something any villain might quail at having turned on him. No spoilers in this review, not one. The puzzle game is a favorite for mystery readers and I¿m not throwing one free clue to this, because Adrien and Jake are series characters that will stand up to case after case as Josh Lanyon hurls them at the worst of human nature in a world too much like ours. Watch this writer, he¿s doing a Breakout Series and just one taste is going to make you an addict. Robert A. Sloan Author of RAVEN DANCE