BUG AND WINDSHIELD
Christopher Holmes is an award winning, NYT best selling author multiple times over. At least he was. Now, his long-running cozy mystery series is not so popular, and Holmes’ editor has chosen not to renew his contract.
Trying to revitalize his career, Holmes’s agent has pushed him into revamping his image from that of a stodgy recluse into that of a trendy urbanite. The agent has also pressured Holmes into attending a writer’s conference at a secluded lodge upstate. There, she has arranged for a meeting with the editor to reopen contract negotiations for a new series with a more popular bent.
The only problem with this approach is that Holmes does not care to be a trendy urbanite and he doesn’t want to deal with beginner-level seminars. And he most certainly doesn’t want to write a new series that revolves around nosy cupcake bakers, smart-alecky female PI’s, bounty hunters or demons. However, Holmes doesn’t want his writing career to be over at the age of 40 nor does he want to be penniless, so he agrees to both suggestions.
He should have stayed home!
First, Holmes blows a tire during a driving rainstorm only a few miles from the lodge. Then, the wooden bridge he is crossing by foot collapses beneath him. Soon after, he discovers the barefoot body of a pajama-clad female next to the road. And when he reaches the lodge and reports his grisly find, the victim turns out to be a mystery writer who only recently savaged Holmes in a highly publicized critique.
With the bridge out and the high winds and rain, the police cannot get to the lodge. That means all the conference attendees are stuck on the premises with the body – and probably the murderer. But the body and its murderer are now the least of Holmes’ immediate worries because he is also stuck at the lodge with J. X. Moriarity. Moriarity is an ex-cop turned highly successful thriller writer. He is also a man with whom Holmes had a 3-night affair a decade ago. And that affair ended very badly.
And to add the proverbial insult to injury, Holmes’ editor turns their meeting into a public humiliation in front of all the conference attendees, including Moriarity. Holmes then mouths off a sarcastic remark about poison and drinks when the editor mockingly toasts the demise of Holmes’ career.
Sure enough, the next morning, Holmes finds his editor dead. When Holmes’ ear stud is found under the man’s cheek, the conference attendees demand that he be locked away until the police can arrive. And Moriarity does the honors.
Moriarity is probably the only person at the lodge, other than Holmes’ agent, who believes that Holmes is being framed. But Moriarity has an agenda of his own regarding Holmes. Even though it has been a decade, he has never completely resolved the aborted affair in either his own mind or in his heart. So for a majority of the book, we are wading through 10 years of misunderstandings and the resulting personal and professional acrimony between the two men. As a result, Josh Lanyon provides us with a read that is far more emotional than it is sexual.
Even though the story is told from Holmes’ POV, Lanyon portrays Moriarity as the most injured party in the failed affair all those years ago. And maybe he was, but the tack Lanyon takes with Moriarity made me grind my teeth, over and over, scene after scene. Moriarity doesn’t ask for any explanation as to why things ended the way they did. What he does is use sex as a psychological weapon and then blindsides Holmes with vicious, cruel and demeaning verbal assaults.
I have no use in real life, or in novels, for people who “shoot first and ask questions later.” It was not long into these set-ups where Moriarity claims to be helping Holmes and then proceeds to crush him to rubble that the only words I wanted Josh Lanyon to put in Holmes’ mouth were “Get the H—l away from me and don’t come back.”
However, Lanyon had other plans for Moriarity before the murderer’s identity could be revealed. A little pain, a lot of fear, and a healthy dose of comeuppance did much to level the emotional playing field between the two men. In the end, I still was not a fan of Moriarity, but there are two more books currently in the series. Perhaps, he will redeem himself.
Cover Art From Goodreads