Stephanie Gayle has attempted a difficult trick and, in my opinion, pulled it off: She has written Idyll Threats entirely in the voice of a gay, former New York homicide detective, Thomas Lynch, now the police chief in bucolic Idyll, Connecticut.
the beginning of the book, Lynch is profoundly depressed. He has not
recovered from the death of his partner and friend in New York City, a
shooting that derailed Lynch's career, sending him off to rural Idyll.
He's been the town's chief for seven months, seems to have learned
almost nothing about
night, Lynch allows himself to be picked up by a local he's stopped for
speeding. They go to a shack for their tryst but find it already in use
by a young woman and an older man. Lynch's arrival in uniform destroys
the couple's mood and his own enthusiasm for quick, uncommitted sex.
Everyone heads home, presumably frustrated. The next morning, the local
golf course's groundskeeper finds the young woman's body on the 9th
green, four bullets in her.
Lynch now has a problem.
If he tells his detectives he'd seen the girl shortly before she was
killed, he'll have to tell them where and how he'd seen her. In the
homophobic world of a small town police station in 1997, this is more
than Lynch can face. He has to solve the murder without revealing his
Gayle can write a lively scene. She has a
chapter in which Lynch interviews an elderly, somewhat dotty woman who
has seen figures on the golf course the night of the killing. He tries
to keep the lady on topic while fending off her horny Pomeranians. It's a
hoot (and the information relevant).
She can also
write a neat description: "His bare arms were a mosaic of bad tattoos.
He even had a dancing hula girl. Her lips were crooked. When I looked
closer. I saw that all of her was crooked. He deserved a refund for that
tat." Or: "Inside, it looked like a science fair and a yard sale had
mated." And: "I couldn't say more [to the parents of the dead girl].
Didn't dare. Hope is a terrible gift. The return policy is heartbreak."
I had no problem with Lynch's homosexuality, I had a real problem at
the beginning of the book with his decision to have sex with the guy
he'd stopped for speeding. Chief! Okay, it's been months since you've
had sex with anyone, but this is a small town, not New York City! It can
only end badly!
As it does. Not only does the visit to
the shack hobble the murder investigation (although, to be fair, Lynch
could not have imagined that), but the guy he'd gone off with shows up
mid-book with a speeding ticket and blackmails Lynch into tearing it up.
Once I had accepted Lynch's flawed judgment, however,
I was willing to be carried along by his voice as he deals with past
demons and current stresses. By the end of the book, while still
unwilling to excuse his actions, I understood why he did what he did.
All in all, I thought Idyll Threats an interesting first entry in what promises to be an entertaining series.