It’s All Hallow’s Eve and Mark Hardwicke’s past has come back to haunt him. The Old Man needs Mark to go on one last mission to the wild, lonely hills of Afghanistan—a mission Mark knows he can’t survive. Even if he does make it back, Stephen has made it very clear Mark is out of second chances.
Should Mark place his lover and his own happiness before duty? Especially when deep down Mark knows he doesn’t deserve a happy ending.
In I Spy Something Wicked Josh Lanyon proves once again what a gifted writer he is, by giving us a story that is unexpected, which surprised even a jaded reader like me.
When we left Mark Hardwicke and Dr. Stephen Thorpe at the end of I Spy Something Bloody they had reconciled after a long and difficult separation. Stephen had put out the welcome mat for Mark even though Mark felt he didn’t deserve to be a part of Stephen’s life after walking away from him before. This novella, I Spy Something Wicked, deals with the aftermath of that reconciliation 5 months later, and how their individual insecurites almost destroyed any chance of lasting happiness.
The story begins when Mark is summoned to a meeting with someone from his old Agency. He’s not happy because he knows that it would not be good news. When he meets his contact he’s told about the dangerous mission they want him to undertake and Mark can’t believe that he is being asked to return to Afghanistan. His cover had been blown on his last mission and it would mean certain death if he accepted this assignment. He is furious that the Agency placed such a low value on his life, but he promised to give the Old Man, his ex boss to whom he feels he owes some allegiance, an answer within 48 hours. This story is about what happens during those 48 hours.
As always, Josh Lanyon’s books are about the characters. Mark has a difficult time prioritizing and dealing with old allegiances that conflict with his love for Stephen. Mark’s boss from the Agency, John Holowan, promised that this would be his last assignment, and Mark knows that one way or another it would be – the risks are just too great for him to believe that he could get out alive – plus he’s lost his edge. He’s afraid to ask Stephen’s opinion about what he should do because Stephen would see through Holowan’s promise for what it was, a sham to get him to do what the Agency wants, regardless of the risks.
I Spy Something Wicked is about the human emotions and the conflicts between Stephen and Mark as they try to work out their problems which they had not resolved in the months they had been living together. A failure to communicate always means trouble in any relationship and here they have it in spades. Neither Mark nor Stephen knows what the other is feeling and they make false assumptions, and new conflicts arise because they are such different personalities and can’t talk to each other about the basics, like love. The emotion and passion between Mark and Stephen are areas where Lanyon shines and he brings to the fore Mark’s insecurities about Stephen as well as his feelings of a lack of self worth. Stephen’s uncertainty about whether Mark is bored with their new dull, “settled” lifestyle, and the fact that he’s so much older than Mark, is also explored. Because this is told in the first person POV (Mark’s) it’s difficult to get much of Stephen’s perspective other than indirectly, but some of his actions which, in parts of the book are quite aggressive, make for a nice change. I loved the interaction between the two protagonists and how at times they talk at cross purposes, but there’s always the element of mutual love and respect which makes the reader feel that somehow they will resolve any issues that arise.
A sequel has the added burden of trying to live up to the original story, however, I can truthfully say that I Spy Something Wicked did that and more because it managed to bring Mark and Stephen full circle. All of the issues from ISSB are out in the open in this new book and the wounds are just as fresh as if it were yesterday, compounded by the fact that this time they can’t afford to leave anything unresolved. There is an added dimension in ISSW – I think Mr. Lanyon is getting daring in his love and sex scenes between his characters – in I Spy Something Wicked the sex has definitely moved into the hot zone.g
I loved I Spy Something Wicked and I think you will too, as Josh Lanyon produced yet one more jewel to add to his collection.