All She Wrote (Holmes & Moriarity, #2)

Title: All She Wrote
Author: Josh Lanyon
Publisher: Self Published
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary Murder Mystery/Romance
Length: Novel (68k words)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5


A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

One Sentence Review: A wonderful next installment of the Holmes & Moriarity series.

THE BLURB

Giving screwball mystery a whole deadly new meaning.

Holmes & Moriarity, Book 2

A murderous fall down icy stairs is nearly the death of Anna Hitchcock, the much-beloved “American Agatha Christie” and Christopher Holmes’s former mentor. Anna’s plea for him to host her annual winter writing retreat touches all Kit’s sore spots—traveling, teaching writing classes, and separation from his new lover, J.X. Moriarity.

For J.X., Kit’s cancellation of yet another romantic weekend is the death knell of a relationship that has been limping along for months. But that’s just as well, right? Kit isn’t ready for anything serious and besides, Kit owes Anna far too much to refuse.

Faster than you can say “Miss Marple wears boxer shorts”, Kit is snooping around Anna’s elegant, snowbound mansion in the Berkshires for clues as to who’s trying to kill her. A tough task with six amateur sleuths underfoot. Six budding writers with a tangled web of dark undercurrents running among them.

Slowly, Kit gets the uneasy feeling that the secret may lie between the pages of someone’s fictional past. Unfortunately, a clever killer is one step ahead. And it may be too late for J.X. to ride to the rescue.

Warning: Contains one irascible, forty-year-old mystery writer who desperately needs to get laid, one exasperated thirty-something ex-cop only too happy to oblige, an isolated country manor that needs the thermostat cranked up, various assorted aspiring and perspiring authors, and a merciless killer who may have read one too many mystery novels.

THE REVIEW

All She Wrote is book two in Josh Lanyon’s excellent Holmes & Moriarity series about middle-aged, washed-up mystery author and reluctant amateur sleuth Christopher Holmes and his lover, fellow mystery author and former SFPD cop, J.X. Moriarity. Book one, Somebody Killed His Editor (reviewed by Wave here) introduced us to our heroes and was a super-duper mighty fine read. I had high expectations and hopes for this follow-up, and I was not disappointed. Lanyon’s flawless prose paired with the wonderfully snarky character of Christopher made this a winner for me.  In my opinion, ASW is not a standalone, and one should pick up SKHE first before reading this one as Christopher and J.X.’s relationship is both explained and  developed in that installment.

Set about three months after the end of SKHE, the story opens to Christopher yet again cancelling another weekend with J.X. His excuse this time? His mentor, former college professor/advisor and friend Anna has broken her ankle in a fall and has asked him to come to the Berkshires to facilitate the annual writing retreat she has on her property. J.X., knowing that Kit has issues and is having trouble committing to this fledgling relationship, lets him go with a “if you change your mind…” When Christopher arrives in on the snowy east coast, he finds out that Anna has ulterior motives: it seems she feels that someone is after her and she wants Christopher to do some snooping. Reluctantly agreeing, he begins the task of both preparing for the retreat and asking some questions. The suspects are aplenty and with most of them mystery writers, it is possible any of them could have done it. When a deadly accident puts Christopher in danger as well, J.X. hops a plane to rush to Christopher’s side, just in time for more mayhem. Nothing is as it seems and the final truth seems unbelievable.

I love these two protags. Though there are times I want to smack Christopher, and I don’t necessarily understand where he is coming from with all of his griping and moaning about his age and issues — he’s younger than I am! — I adore his “crotchety reclusive has-been” self. Lanyon writes him wonderfully; cynical, wry, sarcastic and full of inappropriate humor, Kit doesn’t just walk off a plane, he staggers. He obsesses about his age and aging, being out-of-shape, and his seemingly-dying career. He uses the age difference between him and J.X. and his other issues as a distancing mechanism, and J.X. calls him on it here, accusing him on acting thirty years older than he actually is. And poor Christopher, he must try and realign himself to everything J.X. wants and thinks of him, mostly that he is young, desirable and talented (and to branch out from who J.X. calls “Miss Busybody” 🙂 ). J.X. treats him like a sexy contemporary, forcing Christopher to reevaluate his entire life and outlook. He opens up and lets J.X. in here — figuratively and literally — which takes him out of his comfort zone with surprising results. I thought this book was very much about Christopher’s growth; not that he has left his self-esteem issues behind, but he begins to see himself just a little differently and realizes that he may have enough to offer to keep J.X.’s interest.

And J.X…. He has really grown on me from SKHE to this one. Not that I didn’t not like him there, but we get to know him better and see him interact more with Kit here. I love his unguarded and obvious affection for Kit, how he takes care of him and allows for, is sensitive to and is mostly patient with all of Kit’s…issues. He is so onto Kit, knows him and his thoughts, and definitely has his number. Regardless if what he said in SKHE, he really has waited for Kit for ten years, and is determined to make it work by wearing Kit down emotionally.

One thing that I foresee being a continuing problem point in their relationship is Christopher’s professional jealousy of J.X., and Christopher himself knows it.

“J.X. Moriarity. The J.X. Moriarity?”

J.X. made self-deprecating noises.

I nearly said, No, the other one, but caught myself in time. I felt a real wave of self-contempt. Was I that insecure, that jealous? Because that was the kiss of death to any budding relationship right there.

It is a recurring theme, his envy and jealousy over what he perceives as better and/or more successful writers. It comes across not only in respect of J.X., but with a few of the writers he encounters in this story as well.

The theme of age differences between partners is also very prevalent here. Several of the couples (or would-be couples) have large age differences, making Christopher and X.J.’s five years seem like absolutely nothing. Just one more thing that showcases the differences between our heroes, J.X. thinks of them as essentially the same age, and Christopher thinks of the five years as a huge chasm between them.

It still gave me a start of surprise every time I caught sight of myself in a mirror or a window. Apparently clothes did maketh the man, and my clothes makethed me look less like a curmudgeonly recluse and more like a hip writer guy. The kind of guy I’d have loved to be when I was twenty—or even thirty. The kind of guy J.X. belonged with. The only problem being that I wasn’t that guy. Inside I was still a forty-year-old schlub writing cozy mysteries starring a spinster sleuth nobody wanted to read about, dumped by both my publisher and lover in the same year.

Make that two lovers. Because J.X. was past tense now too, and encouraging that was about the first thoughtful thing I’d done for anyone in a long time. Maybe his feelings were a little hurt, but J.X. deserved more than I could give him. He deserved better. Which he’d have been bound to figure out on his own before long.

The secondary cast is plentiful, and it reminds me once again that not all bad guys are necessarily villainous. And in this story, so many things besides people are characters. Buildings, architecture, rooms, furniture, the food, the outdoor conditions — snow and ice — all compete for the reader’s attention in a good way. I love how descriptive Lanyon can get, the terms he uses and how I can really visualize what is going on around the cast. Here, because Christopher is such a sarcastic and wry adorable shit, he can’t just describe what’s he’s seeing, but has to add commentary as well:

The bed itself looked like it had been modified from a sacrificial altar on some obscure Grecian isle. There were four dark wood Corinthian columns, leather panel inserts with brass studs on the head and footboards, and a canopy frame of wrought-iron ivy and grapes. Green velvet draperies dusted the glass-slick floor.

There was companion furniture, of course, but it seemed to exist merely to keep the bed from brooding over its change of fortune. Stephen King could have written a book about that bed. If I hadn’t been crazy before, I surely would be after a couple of nights beneath those curling grapevines. It was moot, since I obviously was crazy. How else to explain agreeing to go along with this loony plan of Anna’s?

A few other things:

Regarding the mystery element, though there were enough suspects to go around, I have to admit that I suspected the reveal pretty early on. It didn’t ruin it for me at all, and I was really interested to see it play out.

There were little things that tickled me, like Christopher reading “Adrien English’s latest” and how he has a love affair with food and doesn’t care if he gets fat ‘cause no one will ever see him naked again. 🙂 Hell, his general snarkiness had me chuckling.

The smexxin is as you would expect in a Lanyon story — understated and marvelously written. Oh, and for some reason — it isn’t as if I am new to the genre and haven’t read smexxin before — there are a few times that J.X. says some variation of “I want to fuck you” that caused a jump in my gut in such a good way that doesn’t often happen now. 🙂 It hit me as totally sexy and erotic.

Lastly, though it didn’t bother me in any way — I think just about anything Lanyon does is the cat’s meow — I have a feeling that there will be some readers who may find some perhaps…disappointing similarities to a few plot items in ASW to AE2 (A Dangerous Thing). Without going into details or spoilers, those of you who are AE fans will see what I am saying as you read it.

OVERALL

Fans of the author and of book one will not want to miss this wonderful next installment.

Holmes and Moriarity Series

42 comments

  • Engrossing, moving and witty. Just amazing. Definitely my favourite series of JL (next to Dark Horse).
    I have to confess I’m intrigued by this excerpt:

    “Because it turns out you like to be fucked?”
    Because right now it feels like a need .Because I don’t just like it, I love it. Why? I didn’t want to believe that it was something so ridiculous as being caught up in some antiquated heterosexual concept of sexual roles. No, I had a feeling it had more to do with my fear of needing anything. Okay, and maybe a tiny fear that there was something wrong with me because I’d ostensibly, out of the blue, developed a taste for, well, sexual submission. It had never been my nature, it wasn’t my nature, but there was no denying I wanted it—yearned for it—now. Wanted the freedom of totally letting go, of letting someone else—someone I trusted—be in charge of…everything, including my body. What in the hell was that about?

    Will this be somehow developed? Do I dare hope? It’d be interesting. Or it’s rather a part of Christopher’s healing process and some kind of catharsis for him? I guess the latter.
    I hope he will be able to deal with his jealousy and insecurities so he can fully committed to J.X.

    Can’t wait for more.

    Reply
  • Just finished this book all I can say is that I am in love. But then again I fall in love with almost everything Josh writes. I can’t wait to read what comes next for these two. 🙂

    Reply
  • Just finished ASW – I have to say, when I turned the page on what, well, turned out to be the last page I shrieked F***!! (with a smile) I wanted more right now, what can I say 😉 That being said, Josh has definitely created another couple that I find myself in love with.

    I agree with Jan about finding Kit to be a kindred spirit – I see him as very real, and actually doing well with facing his insecurities -with the help of the very patient, kind, sexy perception that J.X. exhibits. I feel Josh did a masterful job of portraying Kit’s realizations – now Kit needs to be comfortable allowing J.X. to love him. Love the snark factor in Kit’s personality, there were some really great lines in this story. I also loved the dialogue, the fact that Kit and J.X. were able to communicate both in and out of bed. The talking during the sex made those scenes especially meaningful as well as hot. The mystery had me guessing right up til the end and I was actually so upset with some of the things Anna said to Kit!!

    I will add that I really like the way that J.X. became involved in this story… I was wondering at the beginning of the book when he would make a re-appearance and was hoping it was not going to be because Kit called him groveling for help with the mysterious incidents. The emotion behind J.X. flying across the country and Kit seeing him enter the room was so pivotal.

    Really looking forward to more Kit and J.X.

    Reply
    • Good morning Dianne. I am go glad you loved the book as much as I did, and I completely agree with everything you’ve said. I, too, am looking forward to the next adventure these two have.

      Reply
      • Hi Lynn,
        I wanted to add, that I know the plot similarity between ASW and A Dangerous Thing you are talking about. Interesting, for me, it didn’t come to mind at all while I was reading ASW, and I just re-read the whole AE series last month. I think that’s a credit to Josh’s writing ability and getting the reader involved in the individual characters of each story 🙂 But then I think we all agree on Josh’s writing. I’ll be interested in seeing how Kit does with controlling his snark factor, I have first hand experience in that dept. LOL

        Reply
  • Ok, brace yourselves,…before about a month ago I never read anything by Josh Lanyon. (I know, right?) I had SKHE on the Kindle forever but just never tried it. His free Amazon book “The Dickens With Love” was the perfect length book one day, and now I’m devouring as many of his books as I can. All that being said, I totally loved this book! Kit is sooo real & vulnerable. I kinda disagree with some of what you said, Aunt Lynn. I think Kit is very much a product of his life with David. His self esteem has been hammered at for 10 yrs and he finally believes he is old and unattractive. He never had a truly giving, loving relationship and I think he’d be very different if he had never “married” David but instead stayed with J.X. after their fling. I think as these two grow as a couple, we’ll see some of Kit’s insecurities diminish, but I think some of his snarkiness will be there for the duration! I’m already anxiously awaiting the next installment! Thanks for an awesome review!!

    Reply
    • Hi Susie. I am so glad you loved ASW! Feel free to disagree with me any time; I love that we all have different opinions about books.

      After reading your statements regarding why you think Kit is how he is, I tend to agree. And I do think Kit’s growth here is all about J.X. and his treatment of Kit.

      Reply
  • I loved ASW, I liked Kit in SKHE but he is even better in this. He is growing and recognising that he needs to change, and maybe it is safe for him to do so. Maybe JX won’t treat him the way his ex did. I read that AE is closest to Josh’s voice, well Kit is closest to mine – a true kindred spirit.
    I didn’t settle on the murderer, each of the characters became possibles and then were discounted, right up until the end. I didn’t get hit by any similarities to AE#2, I’m going to have to reread that again now to see if I can find any!
    Over all I think I preferred ASW to SKHE, the romance is hotter and more loving in ASW, more love than sex. Both are excellent mysteries.

    Reply
    • Sorry for the delay in response, Jan. I didn’t realize I had more comments.

      Thanks for putting in your thoughts about this story. I think each books has merits, and your comments regarding the smexxin and romance are true.

      Reply
  • What a fab review Lynn! Another reader here who will be squirreled away with this one tomorrow and who is also finishing a re-read today of SKHE ;-). Hey, I planned it that way.

    Reply
    • Dianne, I’m all about re-reading the previous book(s) in prep for the new one, so enjoy your time again with Christopher and J.X. 🙂

      Reply
  • Great review, Aunt Lynn.

    You know, JX reminds me a lot of Jacob Marks in Jordan Price’s Psycop books. Like Jacob, JX is a golden-skinned beautiful man. Also, Jacob thinks Vic is wonderful just as JX thinks Kit is gorgeous. Both men deal with their partners’ idiosyncrasies with a great deal of patience. JX and Jacob are very good compliments to their respective boyfriends even if they both seem a little bit too good to be true sometimes. Their particular “perfectness” serves as a benchmark for the growth of both Kit and Vic over time.

    I loved this book. When I thought about ASW relative to the rest of Josh’s stories, the relationship between the men seems(to me) to have a similar tone to the Dangerous Ground series: more playful and teasing(without the near-deaths!) It’s been a while since I read AE #2, but I didn’t think about similarities to that plot. I also didn’t figure out “who dunnit,” but I was caught up in the developing relationship between the men much more than the mystery. Having said that, I fully appreciated the ending of the story, however. Overall, I thought the story was quite humorous. I liked the fact that Kit starts to recognize his snark for what it is and tries to tone it down for JX.

    I’m looking forward to more stories featuring these 2 men.

    Reply
    • Hi Patty. I haven’t read the PsyCop series, but it sounds like the two are very similar. I think J.X. is dreamy. 🙂

      Interesting comment re: the relationship dynamic compared to the DG books. I think you may be right, there.

      I liked the fact that Kit starts to recognize his snark for what it is and tries to tone it down for JX.

      I agree. I think it was part of Kit’s growth, being able to notice what he was doing. I loved that.

      Reply

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