Author: Peter Styles
Length: 150 Pages
At a Glance: Peter Styles has hooked me, without much effort, with his humor, his charming and quirky characters, and his ability to bring something just that little bit different to this romance.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Geo is constantly misunderstood: he has parents that he can hardly tolerate, a well-meaning and loving brother who is disturbed by Geo’s true crime obsession, and all of his friends are online. The one saving grace for him is his best friend and co-host of his true crime podcast, Lex, who he’s been in love with for years. There’s only a few issues: 1. Lex lives across the country. 2. The two have no idea what the other looks like. 3. Geo is way too afraid to risk losing Lex to tell him how he feels. At first, Geo thinks that the perfect solution is for them to go to a horror convention together, but sharing a hotel room for three days will bring more questions than answers for the two.
Review: Peter Styles’ True Crime, book one in the Drop Dead series, is at least eleventeen kinds of fun, and I’m so glad I happened upon it.
There are many little moments in this short novel that had me smiling, if not outright laughing, and one of the absolute best and endearing relationships in it is Geo’s with his twin brother, Mark. Their craptastic upbringing has, for all intents and purposes, left them a family of two, and their closeness is sweet, their connection so genuine, and their dialogue is perfection. Their parents are emotionally manipulative and never should have bred—basically, they’re garbage human beings dressed up in loads of money and designer swag, and they add a great layer of twisted humor to the book. True Crime, in fact, is filled with flawed people, not a perfect plastic character to be found, and I loved the subtle (or maybe not so subtle) subtext about the fractional degrees of separation between a society full of functionally dysfunctional people, and the socio/psychopaths who make up the balance.
There are some tried and true tropes in this short novel, and some of them Styles puts his own spin on to ensure they don’t feel stale or recycled. Geo and Lex met in an online Columbine forum, and by virtue of a mutual agreement, they never exchanged photos nor did anything more on Skype than make audio calls and record their true crime podcast, Creep Corner, where they spend hours debating and discussing, what else, true crimes—everything from Manson to Dahmer to Columbine. Five years of talking and texting every day, sometimes multiple times every day, sealed their friendship in a shared interest that a lot of people think is weird, which eventually grew into sharing so much about themselves that the only logical next step was for them was to fall in love. And, speaking of love, I love the way Styles introduces his readers to these characters. Geo and Lex’s conversations are so easy going, the banter so comfortable that you can sense and feel the connection they share, even when they’re talking about serial killers and the “souvenirs” that some true crime enthusiasts collect. And, even when neither of them has admitted to the other that their feelings are running a lot deeper than their online bromance. The fact that Geo and Lex bucked the traditional romantic tropes—eyes meeting across a crowded room, the first frisson of physical attraction drawing them together, flirting and teasing—and fell in love with who each other is beyond their outward appearance made their meeting each other in person, finally, all the better.
If there’s one trope the book does to the nth degree, it’s opposites attract. These guys are opposites in looks, and their upbringings couldn’t be more different if they tried; although, they do share epic levels of familial dysfunction. Once again in the love column, I love that we get to see Geo and Lex lock eyes with each other for the first time (what’s happening at that moment is kind of perfect too), and in Geo’s mind we hear his description of Lex, and there’s a (…) suspenseful moment where I wondered what their reactions to each other would be. And then it was perfect and wonderful. Never fear, though. There aren’t any instant I-love-yous. Styles does a fine job with the awkwardness and the hesitation and the slow burn for the word count, and I liked the low-key angst of the way Geo and Lex come to realize what the next step in their relationship will be.
One of the things I loved about Geo and Lex’s shared devotion to crime and the criminal element is that it played into a realistic fascination (obsession?) with true crime dramas and fact-based reality investigative television, and the fact that certain truths will never be revealed—the identity of Jack the Ripper, the catalyst for so many unsolved mysteries and murders, there are sometimes only theories and conjecture, educated deductions and best-guess conclusions. Even with modern forensics, human error can mean that the truth often dies with the criminals and their victims. I probably put way too much thought into that for the point of the book, but I liked the unique subplot because it made for a bit of a different contemporary romance, which is a genre I don’t normally gravitate to.
What it all boils down to is that Peter Styles has hooked me, without much effort, with his humor, his charming and quirky characters, and his ability to bring something just that little bit different to this romance—a task that isn’t always so easy anymore. Geo and Lex may not be what any professional would call “healthy”, but sometimes falling in love with someone means your weird fits their weird and your broken parts fit together just fine.
You can buy True Crime here: