Title: Idyll Threats: A Thomas Lynch Novel
Author: Stephanie Gayle
Publisher: Seventh Street Books/Penguin Random House
Length: 283 Pages
Category: Murder Mystery
At a Glance: Idyll Threats is excellent, right up there among some of the best I’ve read in the genre.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: In the summer of 1997, Thomas Lynch arrives as the new chief of police in Idyll, Connecticut—a town where serious crimes can be counted on one hand. So no one is prepared when Cecilia North is found murdered on a golf course. By chance, Chief Lynch met her mere hours before she was killed. With that lead, the case should be a slam dunk. But there’s a problem. If Lynch tells his detectives about meeting the victim, he’ll reveal his greatest secret—he’s gay.
So Lynch works angles of the case on his own. Meanwhile, he must contend with pressure from the mayor to solve the crime before the town’s biggest tourist event begins, all while coping with the suspicions of his men, casual homophobia, and difficult memories of his former NYPD partner’s recent death.
As the case unfolds, Lynch realizes that small-town Idyll isn’t safe, especially for a man with secrets that threaten the thing he loves most—his job.
Review: Sometimes you read a book that makes you want to throw all the confetti and tell people to just go read it. Idyll Threats is that book. Written in a contemporary noir style, in the voice of Chief of Police Thomas Lynch, this novel is a top-notch mystery that not only strings readers along on the investigation of Cecilia North’s murder but also in the revelation of Thomas as a man who’s hiding much of himself from the citizens of Idyll, Connecticut.
The year is 1997 and not much in Idyll is idyllic. If you need a reminder of how far we’ve come in the last twenty years, this book will serve as just that. This is a time before we held a world of information in the palm of our hand–cell phones were not the norm, nor were they smart, and it was crazy to recall a time not so long ago when Google didn’t provide instant answers, and pay phones were still prevalent. We’re also reminded of the social climate of the time—forty-four year old Tom is in the closet and has no intention of revealing that he’s gay, not to his men at the station or the town at large. He relies on clandestine one-offs with strangers to scratch the itch to connect with someone. And that’s the thing that leads to a wealth of problems for Tom when being in the wrong place at the wrong time complicates an already complicated investigation. Idyll Threats isn’t a Coming Out story, though. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. This is the story of a man who’s torn between self-preservation and his sworn duty to protect and to serve in a time when being out was the exception rather than the rule, especially in small town America. It’s the story of Tom’s basest fear, of having his most private self exposed if he comes forward and admits he saw the victim of a coldblooded murder mere hours before she died. Because to do so would raise questions about why he was there, and risk the revelation of who he was with. He’s already run once. To run again would be too much, and the consequence would be the end of his career in law enforcement.
Seven months after leaving his job as a homicide detective with the NYPD, after his partner was shot in a bust gone wrong, Tom is still swamped with guilt over all the things he didn’t do to save Rick’s life. It’s another of the many things Tom hasn’t shared with the guys on the Idyll force, and it’s the defense mechanism he uses to keep them, and everyone else, from getting too close (the lack of fraternity with his men is evident and causes a tangible discomfort throughout the story). Tom’s memories of Rick are so heartwrenching, and there’s one passage in particular that had me in tears, so kudos to the author for not only writing an outstanding mystery but then creating an emotional connection between the reader and her narrator. I loved the deep point of view for that very reason.
The police procedural in this novel is the perfect mix of frustration, false leads, a suspect who looks good for the crime, and an unexpected revelation when Tom finally brings all the pieces together to solve the puzzle, something he resolved to do himself because it meant he could do it without exposing the identities of gay men in the community, himself included. Tom is smart, but not in an implausible way; the story doesn’t ask readers to suspend disbelief, nor does the investigation take unbelievable leaps of logic to progress the storyline.
And then, finally, enough is enough–sometimes a man can only hold in just so much before the pressure means he needs to unshackle himself from the lies by omission.
Idyll Threats is excellent, right up there among some of the best I’ve read in the genre; the story of a Chief of Police who happens to be gay, and how that part of the whole of himself affects and informs his role in the place he can’t call home. And yet, is the only place he has to be. The reveals parsed out through the story about who Tom is, where he came from, and how he got to be where he is, are as much a part of the mystery as the murder itself. The solving of the crime and the capturing of the killer is just fantastic and came together in a way that was shocking as well as believable. Gayle’s prose drew me in with little to no effort, and her characters are imperfect and real.
If you’re a mystery fan, I can’t recommend this book enough, and can’t tell you how excited I am for the release of Idyll Fears in September.
You can buy Idyll Threats here: