Reviewer Wally Wood: Wally is a a professional writer and a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He holds a master's degree in creative writing from the City University of New York as well as a bachelor's degree from Columbia University where he majored in philosophy. As a volunteer, he has taught writing in men's state prisons and to middle-school students in his local library.
His first novel, Getting Oriented: A Novel About Japan received positive reviews even from people who do not know him. As a ghost-writer, he has written 19 business books, all published by commercial publishers. He has recently published The Girl in the Photo which is currently available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a trade paperback or Kindle download.
Author: Stephanie Gayle
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Stephanie Gayle has attempted a difficult trick and, in my opinion, pulled it off: She has written Idyll Threats entirely in the voice of a gay, former New York homicide detective, Thomas Lynch, now the police chief in bucolic Idyll, Connecticut.
At the beginning of the book, Lynch is profoundly depressed. He has not recovered from the death of his partner and friend in New York City, a shooting that derailed Lynch's career, sending him off to rural Idyll. He's been the town's chief for seven months, seems to have learned almost nothing about the town ("You could fit what I knew about this town into a shell casing"), has an arm's-length relationship with his officers, and is terrified they will learn he's gay.
One night, Lynch allows himself to be picked up by a local he's stopped for speeding. They go to a shack for their tryst but find it already in use by a young woman and an older man. Lynch's arrival in uniform destroys the couple's mood and his own enthusiasm for quick, uncommitted sex. Everyone heads home, presumably frustrated. The next morning, the local golf course's groundskeeper finds the young woman's body on the 9th green, four bullets in her.
Lynch now has a problem. If he tells his detectives he'd seen the girl shortly before she was killed, he'll have to tell them where and how he'd seen her. In the homophobic world of a small town police station in 1997, this is more than Lynch can face. He has to solve the murder without revealing his involvement.
Gayle can write a lively scene. She has a chapter in which Lynch interviews an elderly, somewhat dotty woman who has seen figures on the golf course the night of the killing. He tries to keep the lady on topic while fending off her horny Pomeranians. It's a hoot (and the information relevant).
She can also write a neat description: "His bare arms were a mosaic of bad tattoos. He even had a dancing hula girl. Her lips were crooked. When I looked closer. I saw that all of her was crooked. He deserved a refund for that tat." Or: "Inside, it looked like a science fair and a yard sale had mated." And: "I couldn't say more [to the parents of the dead girl]. Didn't dare. Hope is a terrible gift. The return policy is heartbreak."
While I had no problem with Lynch's homosexuality, I had a real problem at the beginning of the book with his decision to have sex with the guy he'd stopped for speeding. Chief! Okay, it's been months since you've had sex with anyone, but this is a small town, not New York City! It can only end badly!
As it does. Not only does the visit to the shack hobble the murder investigation (although, to be fair, Lynch could not have imagined that), but the guy he'd gone off with shows up mid-book with a speeding ticket and blackmails Lynch into tearing it up.
Once I had accepted Lynch's flawed judgment, however, I was willing to be carried along by his voice as he deals with past demons and current stresses. By the end of the book, while still unwilling to excuse his actions, I understood why he did what he did. All in all, I thought Idyll Threats an interesting first entry in what promises to be an entertaining series.