Mark Hardwicke is AWOL, running from his own Agency as well as the enemy. He is badly injured and in desperate need of a safe place to recuperate for a little while and he knows that there is only one person he can trust, one person he wants above all others – Dr. Stephen Thorpe. But he has been away from him for two years and Stephen hasn’t forgiven him for leaving. Will he help him in his time of dire need now that his cover is blown, and he is “stranded here at the ends of the Earth where bleak sky fused into wind-scoured wilderness” or will he reject him? There is only one way to find out. He picks up the phone and when Stephen answers he says “Stephen, I’m in trouble.” Surprisingly he is given permission to fly to Stephen’s home in Virginia which is an ideal location to lick his wounds but the welcome mat is definitely not out.
I don’t know what I expected when I started reading this book but it is not at all the suspense-laden spy caper or who-dun-it for which the author is famous. It is more, much more. This story is very introspective and deals with raw human emotions and the aftermath of an affair where one half of the relationship walked away and is now back hoping to be forgiven but the other half still feels betrayed and is not in the mood to forgive and forget. Mark is devastated when he realizes that he may have lost Stephen forever not only because there is now someone else in his life, but also through his own fault as he was never there for him in the past. The feelings between them are laid bare and the love is palpable but neither Mark nor Stephen knows how to bridge the huge gulf and it takes an incident of immense proportions to make them express how much they mean to each other.
Part of the story is told in flashbacks which is used very effectively by the author to give the reader a sense of why each protagonist feels the way he does and I was very quickly brought up to speed about Mark’s sins in their past relationship. The author also provides glimpses of Stephen’s insecurities about the 21-year age difference between them and his concerns that Mark will never settle down to what he considers is a very boring life. We empathize with Mark’s fears that the reality of a life with Stephen will never live up to his dream of what it could be. He’s afraid to test it – it was far safer than finding out that it wasn’t true – “it was terrifying to be offered your dream.”
If you’re looking for conspiracy and danger you will not be disappointed as the dark clouds are always looming and there is a really big finish however, I Spy Something Bloody gives the reader a different perspective of this author’s work which seems to evolve every time I read something new. Although I am always intrigued and engaged by Josh Lanyon’s books because of their complexity and characterizations, this one was more than his usual impressive fare – the human frailties and emotions evident throughout the story made it an exceptional read. The story is told from Mark’s POV so I lived through all of his emotions and fears about losing Stephen and his scheming to try and win him back. Although Stephen’s feelings are a bit of a mystery, the way he took care of Mark is a very big clue that he hasn’t gotten over him and when they have sex it’s moving and heartfelt. The author quoted very fittingly from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in an intimate moment between Stephen and Mark, “The moving finger writes … and having writ, moves on. …. Nor all your Piety nor Wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line… Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.”
The pace of the story is fast and the dialogue adds an unexpected dimension to the love that is felt if not expressed. Josh Lanyon has a way with words that always gets me and here is one example “To the east were the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west, the Appalachians, and through the rich and fertile valley, the famous river itself glinted and tumbled along its rolling way.”
This is one terrific book and I couldn’t put it down because I was so engrossed in the story and the characters from the beginning to the very last page. If you want to find out what happens between our two protagonists you’ll have to buy the book. I highly recommend I Spy Something Bloody and have no hesitation in giving it 5 stars and two thumbs up.