Title: Idyll Fears (A Thomas Lynch Novel)
Author: Stephanie Gayle
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Length: 320 Pages
At a Glance: Author Stephanie Gayle unpacks another taut mystery for Police Chief Thomas Lynch and the Idyll police force.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: It’s two weeks before Christmas 1997, and Chief Thomas Lynch faces a crisis when Cody Forrand, a six-year-old with a life-threatening medical condition, goes missing during a blizzard. The confusing case shines a national spotlight on the small, sleepy town of Idyll, Connecticut, where small-time crime is already on the rise and the police seem to be making mistakes left and right. Further complicating matters, Lynch, still new to town, finds himself the target of prank calls and hate speech that he worries is the work of a colleague, someone struggling to accept working with a gay chief of police.
With time ticking away, Lynch is beginning to doubt whether he’ll be able to bring Cody home safely…and whether Idyll could ever really be home.
Review: The uptick in crime in the otherwise sleepy town of Idyll, Connecticut is keeping Chief of Police Thomas Lynch busy.
At the end of Stephanie Gayle’s Idyll Threats, Thomas came out in a rather spectacular public fashion. In small town America, circa 1997, he took a huge risk doing so, especially since he hasn’t tried very hard to make Idyll his home—Idyll was just the most convenient option, job-wise, after the death of his partner saw him fleeing New York City. Thomas is still the outsider, both to the townspeople and the guys on the Idyll police force, and now there are folks who want to make things more uncomfortable for him. But, the ownership over some of that distance rests on Thomas himself. He isn’t a warm and fuzzy kind of guy, and he’s keeping everyone at arm’s length, his detectives included, because it’s easier that way. If he doesn’t get close, he doesn’t become invested.
After solving a murder in the last book, Thomas and his detectives are faced with a rash of criminal activity in Idyll Fears, the more pressing being the kidnapping of a boy with a rare genetic disorder. It’s a race-against-the-clock to find the boy and bring him home safely, but there are other distractions that spread the small Idyll force thin as well. There’s an apparent homophobic hate crime against the gay couple who own the local candy store, and on a more personal note, there’s the case of anonymous phone calls Thomas and the guys are fielding, the ones that make it clear a gay police chief isn’t welcome in Idyll. If that isn’t enough, there’s also the tagging of Thomas’s police car with an ugly slur, and an arson fire that the Mayor wants kept on the down-low. Things are hectic in Idyll and not in a good way. The guys on the force are somewhat out of their element, to put a finer point on it, and Thomas’s nerves are stretched thin, to say the least.
Once again, author Stephanie Gayle unpacks a taut mystery in Idyll Fears, and I love the bare-bones, noir style of the series. The disappearance of Cody Forrand, not once but twice, and the subsequent investigation produces plenty of red herrings, false leads, as well as drawing out some common stereotypes that are unflattering but are also, unfortunately, realistic. Which is why they’re stereotypes. In the end, the Occam’s Razor of Cody’s kidnapping, when the impossible is eliminated and we’re left with the truth, is as stunning as it is believable in its ripped-from-the-headlines sensationalism, and Gayle’s writing in the final climactic moments is crisp, fast paced, and rife with tension.
As for the side mysteries, those were handled with the appropriate gravitas, providing more character revelation than their being central to the overall plot. The store vandalism, in particular, was an added dimension to the town and Cody’s kidnapping in that it illustrated even small towns have a seedy underbelly, and beneath the surface, all is not idyllic. No one truly knows what goes on behind closed doors, do we? And, the identity of the tagger was such a great reveal, as it parallels and mirrors Thomas’s own story to some degree.
While I believe Gayle gives readers enough information that this book can be read as a standalone, I’ll also stress that if you like to know your characters from their inception, read Idyll Threats first. Mrs. Dunsmore, Thomas’s secretary, is especially revealing of Thomas’s character, and I loved learning this through the way he projects his own defensiveness and expectations on others, rightfully so in some cases. The end of this book left me with the feeling that Thomas may well have found a place to put down roots, might even make some friends in the process, and while one-offs are still the norm for him, the potential for something more is in the air. This is shaping up to be a favorite mystery series, and I’m so looking forward to seeing what sort of mischief and intrigue visits Idyll and its residents next.
You can buy Idyll Fears here: