Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Murder in Pastel by Josh Lanyon

Ten years ago Cosmo Bari vanished, taking with him his legendary masterpiece, Virgin in Pastel. Since that day no one in the seaside art colony of Steeple Hill has heard from the eccentric painter.

Surrounded by an extended family of Cosmo’s colorful compatriots, mystery writer Kyle Bari believes he has come to terms with being abandoned by his famous father. Then his ex-lover Adam MacKinnon arrives with his new partner, the beautiful but poisonous, Brett.

Brett has an unerring instinct for other people’s weak spots and soon the quiet colony is seething with hostility and suspicion as Brett begin to hint he knows what happened to the missing artist.

Those of you who follow my reviews know that Josh Lanyon is one of my absolute all time favorite writers so when I woke up and saw that there was a new Lanyon release on my FB newsfeed, I just about passed out from giddyness overload.  After restarting my brain, I settled in and read Murder in Pastel.  I was not disappointed.  I didn't really want to hate Brett, I figured there was some heartbreak in his past that made him into who he was, but he was just so hateable.  As a huge mystery fan, very few murder mysteries really keep me guessing till the big reveal, that says nothing on the authors' web-weaving ability it has more to do with the way my mind works, and Murder in Pastel was no different.  Even though I was pretty sure I had it pegged right, the story telling and the characters had me hooked from page one, I hated to see it end.


The rain had passed and the moon shone. I stood out on my front porch, too restless to sleep, though I was beat. The lights were off in the cottage across the meadow. I could still feel Adam’s arms around me and the taste of his mouth on mine. On impulse I decided to walk out to the old church and watch the sunrise.

When I was younger I used to walk out to Steeple Hill often. I think it started as a kind of proof to myself that I wasn’t actually in the graveyard if I could walk to it. Too, I guess the silence and peace appealed to me. My imagination was stirred by the graves with their ornate headstones and flowery epitaphs. Lest I appear some fey creature of the woodland, I didn’t wander that way much anymore, but I still could trace the path in the dark.

The church stood lightless and silent, windows boarded, the doors padlocked. The bell in the steeple hung motionless, its tongue stilled for many years.

I’m not sure how long I had been sitting on the steps watching the marble angel frozen in its dance when I heard a rustling sound behind me.

Warning prickled down my spine. I half turned and something slammed down on my shoulder. I was in motion so it was a glancing blow, but it hurt unbelievably and it scared the shit out of me.

I think I yelled, “What are you doing?” Which should have been obvious already. I scuttled over the broken stones in the walk, dodging a kick aimed at my midsection.

It happened so fast. It didn’t occur to me to fight back. I’d never been in a fight. I wouldn’t have known where to begin. My focus was on escaping in one piece, and for that I was well equipped, being limber, relatively fast, and familiar with the churchyard.

I dived, rolled across the wet leaves and grass, and scrambled to my feet as my assailant slammed the board into a stone urn, showering bits of cement flowers over my face and hair.

“Don’t like it rough, honey? Don’t want to play anymore?”

It was too dark to see more than a bulky outline. His voice was hoarse, rasping, unfamiliar.

“Fucking faggot!”

I scrambled up and bolted for the break in the fence. He was right behind me. I wriggled through, tearing my sweatshirt, managed to get to my feet and raced for the shelter of the woods.

Once inside the muffled darkness I slowed. Stopped. Listened.

He was coming up fast.

Slipping off the path, I moved carefully, cautiously, while nerves clamored to break and run. Quietly, quietly… Creeping through the tangle of vines and underbrush, the humid smell of earth and mold assailed my nostrils.

Something moved nearby. I froze. Leaves crackled. I sank down on my haunches behind a tree trunk. My heart was clamoring like an eight-bell fire alarm. Steady, steady, I warned my faulty pump.


I was afraid to breathe. He was not gone. He was listening for me, as I was listening for him.

I thought of my father vanishing in these same woods ten years ago.

The crack of a tree branch beside me was like a gunshot. I jumped up, thrusting through the mass of thorns and brush. My face and hands stung as I plowed on.

Author Bio:
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.



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