Gay bookseller and reluctant amateur sleuth Adrien English’s writing career is suddenly taking off. His first novel, Murder Will Out, has been optioned by notorious Hollywood actor Paul Kane. But when murder makes an appearance at a dinner party, who should be called in but Adrien’s former lover, handsome closeted detective Jake Riordan, now a Lieutenant with LAPD — which may just drive Adrien’s new boyfriend, sexy UCLA professor Guy Snowden, to commit a murder of his own
The story opens with a bang, or more accurately with a crash as Adrien is once again up to his neck in another murder. At a dinner party with Hollywood movers and shakers to which he has been invited by actor Paul Kane, he has the misfortune to sit next to the murder victim just before he keels over face first into his bowl of vichyssoise. To make matters worse who should be heading up the investigation into this high profile murder but his old nemesis and former lover Jake Riordan. Déjà vu for Adrien.
Adrien is in a quandary as he is being pressured by Paul who is one of the numerous murder suspects, to investigate the murder unofficially. Although our amateur sleuth doesn’t like Paul because of his past association with Jake, he doesn’t have much choice but to acquiesce if he wants his book to be made into a movie. To complicate things further Guy, his partner of almost 2 years since he broke things off with Jake, makes new demands of Adrien who isn’t sure what he wants.
In the fourth book in the series Josh Lanyon really excels because he has written more than another great murder mystery starring his two flawed protagonists. This time, in addition to an action-packed story he writes from the heart about their personal relationship and struggles in a way he hasn’t before. Jake and Adrien have both evolved over the past 2 years and Jake, perhaps because of his recent family tragedy, while he has not undergone a personality transplant he is different and a few sharp edges have been softened. Adrien seems tougher and more demanding of those close to him and he tells them exactly what he wants but he is still foolhardy and daring.
The book is a tour de force of the entire series from several perspectives. The author’s eloquence is more evident here than in either of the previous books as he paints pictures of the characters so drolly with a few succinct phrases that you can see them with your mind’s eye. He also has a rare talent for using humour, even on the most solemn or dangerous occasion, and he had me doubled up with laughter when he described the mourners at the victim’s funeral using one liners and ‘zingers’ that appear to come from a totally warped mind. One scene in the book that was so crazy, unreal and “what the f..k” made me conclude, even though I know very little about the financial markets, that there may be a run on Radio Shack shares after September 16 g.
While the author uses humour effectively in this book, there is much more that’s different. There are nuances in characterizations which would indicate that subtle changes have emerged in Josh Lanyon’s writing style for this series since book 3, The Hell You Say. In DOAPK the passion between the two protags in certain scenes is so transparent and moving that sometimes it felt as if Adrien’s wonky heart couldn’t take any more. Fans will experience a full range of emotions when they read this book – from shock to pleasure to devastation and anger as well as a host of others as they ride the roller coaster with Adrien and Jake, and some may feel that Jake got his comeuppance. It seemed to me, particularly during the latter third of the book, that the personal relationship on occasion took center stage over the murder investigation because of the huge personal issues at stake.
There are so many “moments” in this book that it’s difficult to decide on a quote from all of the excellent material but there was one scene that was unbearably poignant and Josh describes it as “sweet in the way crack must feel hitting the bloodstream of an addict after years of staying clean”.
Fans who have waited 2 years to find out what happens next after the end of THYS which created such a firestorm will not be disappointed in this very revealing and complex story. Is Jake a kinder, gentler and more loving person and does he redeem himself after THYS? Does Guy get his fondest wish? You will have to read the book to find out.
Do I think this book is Josh Lanyon’s best work to date? To use baseball parlance, he doesn’t just hit this one out the park, he clears the bases. Death of a Pirate King in my opinion is deserving of more than 5 stars so I have rated it as a Desert Island Keeper (DIK) which is the highest rating on this blog.
Death of a Pirate King is not to be missed whether or not you’re a fan of the writer or the Adrien English series but in my opinion this is not a standalone story although you can read it as such. To really enjoy and appreciate this gem it should be read in order with the other AE books. Buy this book! Death of a Pirate King is available September 16 in e-book format from Loose-id. The estimated release date for the print version of the book from MLR Press is September 29. Should this schedule change the dates will be revised in this review.