Fair Game (All’s Fair #1)


Title: Fair Game
Author: Josh Lanyon
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: M/M mystery, romance
Length: Category
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre

Summary Review
This ‘painting by numbers’ Josh Lanyon mystery is saved by the usual marvelous prose and an interesting character dynamic in the romantic pairing.

THE BLURB

A crippling knee injury forced Elliot Mills to trade in his FBI badge for dusty chalkboards and bored college students. Now a history professor at Puget Sound university, the former agent has put his old life behind him-but it seems his old life isn’t finished with him.

A young man has gone missing from campus-and as a favor to a family friend, Elliot agrees to do a little sniffing around. His investigations bring him face-to-face with his former lover, Tucker Lance, the special agent handling the case.

Things ended badly with Tucker, and neither man is ready to back down on the fight that drove them apart. But they have to figure out a way to move beyond their past and work together as more men go missing and Elliot becomes the target in a killer’s obsessive game…

All’s Fair Series

THE REVIEW

I’m a huge Josh Lanyon fan and have been ever since I first started reading m/m romance. I love his masterful way with prose, the way he can convey emotion through the flick of an eyelash, and most of all the way that he can put two men in a room and have them run through a whole range of emotion from love to antagonism within a few paragraphs. Having said that, I have to admit I was rather underwhelmed with Fair Game. Usually when reading a JL mystery, I’m glued to the book, unable to put it down until I’ve finished. That wasn’t the case with this book, and it’s taken a bit of thinking to decide quite why I didn’t find this as engaging as I usually do.

The story follows ex-FBI agent Elliot, who has quit the agency after having his knee-cap shot off whilst on active duty. He can’t bear the thought of an FBI desk-job so he’s left to become a history professor at a local college. A friend of his father asks him to try and discover the whereabouts of her runaway son, and along the way Elliot gets pulled into an investigation into another missing college student which brings him into the path of FBI officer and former lover, Tucker.

The main reason that I found it difficult to engage in the story is that I felt that this book was a little too similar to many of the other mysteries I’ve read by this author. Many of JL’s books contain men who feel compelled the dig around into something they have no business doing and end up getting into trouble. On this occasion the story felt tired as I followed the old pattern of: man drawn into mystery; man gets into trouble with the authorities for meddling; man persuades authority figure to help him; man puts his life in danger; man solves mystery through sheer good fortune; the end. Another storyline that JL uses a lot is that of the estranged lovers, forced apart through pride and misunderstanding or circumstance who are brought back together by the mystery. In the case of Tucker, he’s the FBI agent in charge of the investigation into the missing student and he’s none too pleased when old lover Elliot starts poking into his case. Thus Elliot and Tucker have a number of ‘stay out of my case’ telephone conversations, the likes of which I’ve read many times in various other JL mysteries. Those readers who haven’t read many Josh Lanyon mysteries will probably not feel the same ennui that I did about the story in this book.

Having said that, this book was still a four star read for me. This is mainly because of JL’s impeccable prose coupled with the sympathetic character of Elliot. Elliot is recovering from his injury, and trying to cope with a relatively staid life in academia. I liked the way that Elliot veers between liking and hating his job, coping with the indignity and weakness of his shattered and repaired knee, and the longing he still feels for his time in the FBI. In many ways this story is Elliot’s journey from the FBI to an acceptance of his life now, and part of that acceptance is reconciling with former lover Tucker. I liked Tucker too, what we got to know of him through Elliot’s closed third person point of view. The part of their relationship that I liked best was that it was tough guy Tucker who was perhaps the most affected and emotional over their original split – a nice changeover from what often happens in a JL romance. I also liked the way that my sympathies shifted between the pair where one minute I felt sorry for the way Tucker has treated Elliot and the next my sympathies were with Tucker before shifting again. The only part which troubled me about the relationship between Tucker and Elliot is that a number of their conversations happen over the telephone which I found quite distancing, but that’s probably just because I like my characters to be facing each other when discussing difficult emotional situations.

Another part which also worked was in the portrayal of academic life with its different types of students and professors. There were a number of little touches to the life of an academic which put this above the average in terms of additional details surrounding the main character and which all added to the characterisation. There was a lot of incidental humour in Elliot’s life as professor and his relations with staff and students as well as an accurate portrayal of the frustrations of life in academia which all added to the realism of the story. Elliot’s relationship to his dad was also a plus point to the story, especially in relation to his job, and his father’s left-wing politics.

Characterization is always a strong point in any Josh Lanyon book and it didn’t disappoint here. If you’re looking for a book which is filled with great characters and lots of good detail then you can’t go wrong with this book. I enjoyed reading it, even if I did find it a little formulaic, and Fair Game will probably appeal to fans as well as new Josh Lanyon readers.

9 comments

  • Though I understand why Jen would say this latest instalment of JL’s is ‘formulaic’, I don’t think the arrangement of Fair Game tired at all. I am a Josh Lanyon fan- read Fanyon, but that said, I’m not completely in thrall with everything he’s written. My opinion on A Vintage Affair is ‘so-so’. Not because of the writing, Josh hasn’t disappointed me thus far and his characterisation is the very best, but I didn’t care for Jeff and honestly felt Austin deserved better. Even Jeff being the best looking thing ever caused my lip to curl every time I remembered. Everything else, to me, was just right. Austin didn’t get to solve the mystery (which is good) and I loved Cormac and Auntie Eudie.

    Back to Fair Game, yes there were faint wisps of Adrien in Elliot being unwillingly drawn into a murder mystery but then again it made perfect sense, given his FBI background. It didn’t seem contrived at all. I did think that at some point he should have backed off (his stubbornness here too, is reminiscent of Adrien) but then again, his background and issues made his not doing so understandable.
    Tucker is refreshingly open about his feelings once Josh- yes Josh- lets him express himself but the best thing for me, I think, is JL’s expression of Elliot’s distancing from his students; his seeing them as names on a roster- “Mrachek, Leslie…Sandusky, John …”. That for some reason struck me as hilarious. Don’t ask me why.

    As I usually say, this is another Josh win. Would love a sequel (think prequel-sequel like The White Knight) where maybe Elliot does go back to his desk job with the Bureau. Then the Elliot/Tucker synergy would progress just fine but then again, JL always knows how to make his plot work regardless and I can’t wait for the next instalment. Hit me! 🙂

    Reply
  • Hi All

    Sorry it’s taken me a few days to get back to you – I’ve been on holiday.

    Thanks to you all for your comments, especially Josh – thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I know it’s hard for authors when reviewers don’t wholly connect with their books and you’re always a perfect gentleman about it.

    Reading through your comments, it looks like I might be in the minority in my feelings that the book was formulaic. Once again this shows that the reviews here are just the opinion of one person and thanks to those who gave their views it helps other people reading this review to acknowledge that there are differing opinions out there.

    It’s interesting what budajsguy said about the comparison between Will/Taylor from the DG/OP books and Elliot/Tucker. I have to admit that Will & Taylor were never my favourite of Josh’s characters – another thing I seem to be in the minority about 🙂 – which may be another reason I didn’t connect with these characters. Then again, I’ve loved some of Josh’s books which many other readers haven’t enjoyed so much, so perhaps it’s just that I’m a bit strange :).

    I noticed that this book is a best-seller at Carina Press already (well done for that, Josh), so my negative feelings for it certainly haven’t affected sales.

    Reply
  • You must have just been in a mood when you read this one, Jen. I, for one, thought this was one of Josh’s best short mysteries. Like LadyM, I didn’t know who the murderer was–always a bonus–but was definitely following clues in my head and wanting to know. I really liked Elliot and Tucker. In a shorter work, I think the romance works best if the pair share a history of some kind, that way there’s no chance for that insta-love tripe (not a typo).

    I didn’t pick up hints of any of his previous stuff in here (aside from the wounded hero), though the FBI connection always makes me think of Taylor and Will from Dangerous Ground (probably because they’re my 2nd favorite pairing of his–and I think Elliot/Tucker just knocked Timothy/Jack into 4th).

    I do believe Fair Game may have the sweetest ending I’ve ever read in a Josh Lanyon piece. I enjoyed it a lot. Made me smile and laugh a little. I’ll be first in line for any future adventures from this pair!

    Reply
  • I just finished the book and enjoyed it very much.

    I had several problems with A Vintage Affair – and, no, THAT scene wasn’t one of them. Mainly, I thought the mystery was pale (plus, resolved off scene), there was insta-love on the side of one main character and I disliked the other one very, VERY much. Fantastic (and hilarious) secondary characters just weren’t enough for me.

    So, Fair Game seemed to me like Josh was back in the game. 🙂 Or, as TJ so eloquently put, it felt coming home or revisiting a favorite place. The mysteries and great characters are undoubtedly what Josh is best at. This time I had no idea who the murderer was which is a big plus in my book, considering I am a mystery fan and I usually know half through the book who the bad guy is. I liked both Elliot and Tucker as well as other characters, like Elliot’s dad (I can see some entertaining discussions between him and Tucker in the future). One of the things that make a successful book for me is my wish to revisit the characters. I will be rereading Fair Game for sure and if Josh writes more about these guys in the future – he has one sure reader patiently waiting. 🙂

    Reply
  • Good, analytic review, Jen! I appreciate the info. No question that Josh writes beautifully, but it does sound like this one got a bit formulaic. I think I might pass. 🙂

    Reply
  • Thanks for the review, Jen. I guess that’s the problem with any genre fiction, there are only so many ways to write a mystery, and I’ve pretty much done them all at this point! It comes down to whether you’re in the mood for a classic mystery with classic romantic elements.

    Thanks as always for your thoughts.

    Reply
  • Jen

    The main reason that I found it difficult to engage in the story is that I felt that this book was a little too similar to many of the other mysteries I’ve read by this author. Many of JL’s books contain men who feel compelled the dig around into something they have no business doing and end up getting into trouble. On this occasion the story felt tired as I followed the old pattern

    I haven’t read Fair Game as yet so I can’t comment on the book, although I must say that I had mixed feelings about Josh’s last book, because of the M/F/M scene in it which really upset me.

    Having said that, I’m probably like TJ – spotty memory. I don’t seem to recall noticing these traits. After reading so many books sometimes my eyes glaze over unless it’s a particularly poorly written or exceptional book. However I will email you when I’ve read Fair Game.

    Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    Good review. I’m jealous that you got to read this ahead of the release! I’m a big fan of Josh’s from way back. I know how you feel when you’ve read a lot of books by the same author, they inevitably will seem familiar. I am only part way through this, but so far I’m not getting that feeling, maybe due to a lousy memory too! For me it feels more like coming home or revisiting a favorite place. But I agree that this is a good point to mention. I think you’re spot on that his prose is absolutely the best, and he makes you love the story as a result.

    Reply
  • Well, there is a benefit to my truly atrocious memory – I was able to enjoy the book without thinking it was awfully similar to stuff he’s written before! 🙂

    Reply

Please comment! We'd love to hear from you.

%d bloggers like this: