This is listed as “Holmes and Moriarity Book 1,” so I’m guessing this is the beginning of a series, and it’s a great start. Christopher Holmes, a gay author of cozy mysteries, is having a career crisis as his agent, Rachel Ving, makes it clear that his “spinster and cat novels” are entirely out of fashion. She summons him to a writers’ retreat at the remote Blue Heron Lodge in Northern California to pitch a new series to Christopher’s mean-spirited editor, Steven Krass. In desperation to fit the trends, Rachel and Christopher pitch a “Regency-era P.I. series with demons and a sexy chicklit-y feel.”
Things go about as badly as Christopher expected when it comes to his future with his publisher, but overall the weekend is far more terrible than he could ever have imagined. Peaches Sadler, a nearly universally despised novelist, is found dead, and as Christopher is the one who discovered the body, he’s everyone’s prime suspect. Moreover, Christopher is unlucky enough that J.X. Moriarity, a handsome ex-cop turned bestselling author, whom Christopher has a history with, is on hand to keep Christopher under house arrest. Lanyon effectively isolates the retreat by dropping in a ferocious winter storm that washes out the only bridge and prevents any kind of law enforcement from coming in to help. And then the trouble gets even worse.
I really enjoyed this book, particularly the witty first-person narration and dialogue. Holmes is droll, self-deprecating, and endearing, if slightly bitchy. His voice is distinct, clipped, and elegant. Moriarity is also likeable, and his affection for “Kit” as he calls Christopher is more than charming. There are a few sex scenes that are a bit mild by my crazy standards (which is probably appropriate since this is a mystery first, not erotica) but are beautifully written. In fact the writing throughout this novel is gorgeous. Also, these days it seems like errors are creeping into books, so my compliments to Samhain for what appeared to be flawless editing.
As for the mystery, I found it thoroughly satisfying. It’s possible that a reader will be able to identify the culprit before Christopher does because the clues are there, but I didn’t figure it out. The ending was a bit abrupt and Christopher never truly reveals the killer’s motivation, although, in my opinion, the reader has enough information to surmise what happened and why as well as why Christopher decides to be discreet. Most importantly, this is not a mystery where the killer is barely in the book until the final scene nor where the killer stupidly reveals himself by attacking the sleuth nor does some random person come out of nowhere to unrealistically offer important information for no reason. The logic of the plot and the detecting are solid and intriguing. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Gavin Atlas