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Thursday, April 7, 2011

'Snowball in Hell' Spain and Doyle #1 by Josh LANYON

Received from NetGalley

From the BLURB:

Los Angeles, 1943

Reporter Nathan Doyle had his reasons to want Phil Arlen dead, but when he sees the man's body pulled from the La Brea tar pit, he knows he'll be the prime suspect. He also knows that his life won't stand up to intense police scrutiny, so he sets out to crack the case himself.

Lieutenant Matthew Spain's official inquiries soon lead him to believe that Nathan knows more than he's saying. But that's not the only reason Matt takes notice of the handsome journalist. Matt's been drawn to men before, but he must hide his true feelings—or risk his entire career.

As Nathan digs deeper, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay one step ahead of Matt Spain—and to deny his intense attraction to him. Nathan's secrets may not include murder, but has his hunt put him right in the path of the real killer?

Lieutenant Matthew Spain has his work cut out for him. America is at war and after a harrowing escape from the Guadalcanal Campaign it’s now Spain’s job to clean up Los Angeles’s mess . . . and the city is certainly in a state when the body of Phil Arlen is found in the tar pits. Arlen comes from money and was recently kidnapped – but even after his big-bucks daddy coffed up the dough, Arlen still wound up dead. And Spain’s best suspect in the murder is a war reporter recently returned from a close-escape in Tunisia.

Nathan Doyle had good motive to kill Phil Arlen, but he has even more reasons to keep the details of his arrangement with the deceased a secret . . . a secret that Lieutenant Matthew Spain might just share. . .

Josh Lanyon’s ‘Snowball in Hell’ was originally released in 2007, but the good people at Carina press are re-releasing the book with a few adjustments by the author as it heralds a new noir series called ‘Spain and Doyle’, to be continued in 2012. . .

I love Josh Lanyon. Completely, utterly and unabashedly love him! ‘Snowball in Hell’ is more romantic mystery brilliance from the man who has made a niche for himself in the M/M genre.

The ‘Spain and Doyle’ series is set in 1940’s Los Angeles. It has an ‘L.A. Confidential’ vibe, with a head-nod to Dashiell Hammett and ‘The Black Dahlia’. People say things like “putting the screws on you” and characters are so named Sid Szabo and Nora Noonan, and they hang out in joints called Las Palmas Club and the High Hat. The book is deliciously noir and Lanyon absolutely revels in the smoky clubs and descriptions of tough-as-nails detectives. Lanyon’s ‘Adrien English’ series also had a noir-bent, albeit with a cozy mystery vibe threaded throughout.

In ‘Spain and Doyle’ Lanyon gets to drench himself in the hard-boiled detective schtick, and he’s well-suited to the immersive genre. Especially because the seedy-underbelly inherent in most noir makes for a fascinating double-meaning when Lanyon is also writing about gay characters. This is 1940’s America, war is raging overseas and homosexuality is thought to be a disease, and the only cure can be found in mental institutions hooked-up to electroshocks. While Spain and Doyle investigate the murder of a rich society boy, they also delve into the somewhat seedy double-life of people who have to keep their sexuality hidden or face jail-time. This makes for fascinating reading; both Spain and Doyle served overseas (as a marine and war reporter, respectively) we learn the ways they embraced their sexual explorations, or (in Nathan Doyle’s case) repressed them;
The hungry, restless feeling was on him again. For a few months in hospital he’d hoped – prayed – he was cured, but it was worse since he’d returned to Los Angeles. Much worse. Need was like a fever burning him up, burning up his inhibitions, his common sense, his instinct for self-preservation. Ironically, the war had kept him reasonably sane, reasonably steady. But now he was back to where he’d started.
If I have one small (smidgeon, really) complaint it’s in the fact that the romance wasn’t quite on-point for me. I think it’s because the book is quite short (44,490 words according to Amazon) so the romance feels a little rushed. Spain and Doyle’s emotions and heart-on-sleeve declarations seemed to come a little too quickly, considering the times and their high-profile professions (and the fact that Spain is a widower, having lost his wife recently to cancer). I almost wish that Lanyon had held more back and concentrated on writing romantic tension, rather than pairing them in this first book (although this might just be me wishing to recreate the infamous Adiren/Jake yo-yo relationship).

That being said, there is plenty of romantic fodder to be had in future books as the ‘Spain and Doyle’ series continues. The 1940’s setting will certainly make for an interesting backdrop to Lanyon’s M/M mystery romance series, and I can’t wait for more . . . especially considering the romantic conclusions of ‘Snowball in Hell’;
He immediately let him go, and said quietly, painfully, “It’s not that I don’t – I'm a cop, Nathan. It’s . . . too dangerous.”
Nathan nodded. Smiled suddenly. “I know. Nice to have had a taste of . . . what it could be like. That’s more than I ever thought I'd have.”
‘Snowball in Hell’ is dripping in delicious noir. Josh Lanyon is in his element writing about the love affair between a journo and hard-boiled detective in war-time Los Angeles. The murder mystery is worthy of Hammett himself, while the romance is fraught with sensuous intrigue. I love Josh Lanyon, and I am unbelievably thrilled that he has a new series in ‘Spain and Doyle’ – you better believe I'm going to be hanging out for more of this duo in 2012!



  1. YES! Great review! I totally agree with you and you make a very good point regarding the romance... but I as well loved this book and I cant wait for more of Spain and Matt!


  2. Sounds like a very fresh twist on the crime noir genre!


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