A Dangerous Thing, by Josh Lanyon

Originally published on Gay.com UK

A group of university archaeologists are camped out in a Californian forest. One of the team, of Native American descent, is convinced the place is haunted – and the weird nighttime sounds that are spooking them all out are slowly convincing the rest of them.

It sounds more like the setup for an episode of Scooby Doo than a murder mystery, but the latest novel from Gay Men’s Press enters areas that Hanna-Barbera’s ‘Mystery Machine crew’ would never dare approach.

In A Dangerous Thing by Josh Lanyon, bookseller-turned-crime writer Adrien English escapes out to the Pine Shadow Ranch, bequeathed to him by his beloved grandmother, in the hope of overcoming his writer’s block and to sort out in his head his frustrating relationship with the S/M-obsessed LAPD detective that he met in Lanyon’s first book, Fatal Shadows.

English finds he has little time for writing, though, when he discovers a dead body on his driveway – one that has disappeared by the time the local sheriff turns up. Any hopes that this would be a comedy romp disappear further when we realise that the disappearing corpse is that of the curmudgeonly caretaker. So, without giving too much away, we can safely assume that he won’t be unmasked at the end, claiming in true Scooby style he would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling homosexuals…

When a second corpse turns up (assumed by the none-too-intelligent local police to be the hereto missing body), suspicion falls on English himself. His case doesn’t look much brighter when he discovers that the caretaker was growing nearly a million dollars’ worth of cannabis on site. Together, English and his on-off boyfriend seek to solve the mystery of the two murders – and just what is behind the strange goings-on affecting the archaeologists.

Lanyon’s second book is a riveting romp, moving along at an incredible pace. Alongside the tensions of the murder mystery, the two main characters’ growing togetherness slowly knit. Detective Jake Riordan coming to terms with his first relationship with a man manages to be touching with being cliché-ridden.

The only hiccup in the plot is a dream sequence that exists solely as a desperate attempt to create tension at the end of a chapter – otherwise it’s a solid read.

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Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.