Snowball in Hell by Josh Lanyon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
[This is a re-edited re-release from Carina] Simply one of the best pieces of Detective Noir fiction I have read. I took a course in college that included some classic Detective Noir pieces, and I have to say that I enjoyed this far more, mainly due to Lanyon's superb characterization skills and careful balance of plot and setting. He keeps the pace crisp while still managing to maintain an authentic atmosphere throughout the story. The police detective/reporter crime solving duo is one of mystery's most popular tropes, yet it doesn't feel cliche here as the backdrop of WWII and the LA setting contribute to the freshness. As does the fact that the reporter and the detective are both men. And you'll notice that it has taken me this long to get to that which is indicative of it being secondary to this being a great story--this isn't a M/M short as much as it's a detective noir short where the main characters happen to be gay men.
Which is another way of saying that I firmly believe that even those who don't read or seek out M/M romance will find a lot to like here. In fact, I recommended it to my mother, a die-hard mystery fan and seeker of the best of the genre. If she ends up reading the whole piece, I'll probably warn her (and other mystery fans) that the love scenes may be a bit more graphic than she typically reads, but there are only two, and while graphic, there is a gentle build-up that gives readers ample time to look away and skip to the scene break without missing out on the great story at work here. For me, the love scenes added tremendously to the emotional impact of the relationship and showed Matthew's gradual acceptance of his feelings for Nathan. Nathan already knows what he is, but is far from accepting of that fact--he's more experienced than Matthew in ways of the flesh, but much less so in ways of the heart. Each complements the other perfectly.
They also complement each other as a crime solving team. Matthew initially follows his gut and labels Nathan as a person of interest but is far from convinced that he is the killer. Matthew gives us a peek into 1940s police procedure--life before CSI and forensics when intuition counted for a lot more. Nathan brings street smarts to the case that open up new avenues. They have a natural balance and camaraderie that transcends their attraction to each other. If you enjoyed the new Sherlock & Holmes on PBS mystery this past fall, you will very much enjoy this story. The fact that Sherlock and Holmes were NOT a "couple" was a running point in the series, but imagine if the other characters' suspicions WERE true? You'd have the tenor of this story. This is part of a two novella series, but I really hope that Lanyon expands it to more "episodes." Had the sequel been available when I finished this story at 1 am, I would have purchased it. Immediately. Highly recommended read for open-minded mystery lovers.
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