Review: Blood Red Butterfly by Josh Lanyon

Rating: 3.75 stars

Blood Red Butterfly coverHomicide Detective Ryo Miller is furious when his murder case against criminal Mickey Torres is derailed by an alibi he just knows has to be fake,  especially when the person vouching for Torres is none other than manga artist Kai Tashiro.  Ryo is familiar with Kai, having mentally nicknamed him the “Ice Princess” after having been rebuffed by the artist every time Ryo approached him in their local gay bar.  He just cannot believe that Kai would ever go for a thug like Torres and that something else must be going on.

After consulting with his partner who thinks they should abandon the case, Ryo decides that he must bust Torres’ alibi by any means possible, and if he has to take down Kai to do it, so be it.  But there are more depths and secrets to Kai Tashiro than Ryo is aware of and soon Torres’ obsession with Kai becomes his own putting his job and everyones life in danger.

As far as I know this is  Josh Lanyon’s first effort since his return from sabatical and his intention was to write a story that included elements of yaoi as well as contemporary fiction.  It certainly looks that way from the cover and from many of the elements Mr. Lanyon folded into his story.   As the author of Come Unto These Yellow Sands and the Adrien English mysteries, Josh Lanyon is a “must read” for me.  His stories are fascinating constructions full of marvelous characterizations and intriguing plots.  His fondness for police detectives or special agents can be found in more than one novel, including one of my favorites, Fair Game.  So it was not surprising to find that one of his main characters here is a somewhat surly, overworked, Homicide Detective named Ryo Miller.

The Japanese or Yaoi influence is highlighted by his use of characters of mixed Japanese ancestry and he has certainly done his research with regard to the types of classes Japanese american families send their children to in an attempt to keep their culture alive in their kids.  From ikebana classes to attending Nihonjin gakko schools for Japanese immersion studies, from the specific names  given to each american generation of youth (Ryo’s third generation is Sansei, Kai’s fifth generation is Gosei), we are enveloped in a cloud of elements to help us understand what it is to be a person of Japanese-American heritage.  This is all very beautifully done and adds a very authentic color to the narrative.

I also liked the way the author used a manga story written by Kai called Blood Red Butterfly to mimic the actions between Ryo and Kai with Torres being the incendiary element whose actions can’t be predicted.  These are all terrific facets of Blood Red Butterfly that I enjoyed immensely. But ultimately, it was the characterizations themselves that left me unsatisfied throughout the story, and I am not sure if that is due to the yaoi influence or not.   The characters of  Ryo and Kai just did not have the depth and dimension I have come to expect from Josh Lanyon.  I never bought into Ryo’s obsession with Kai, perhaps it was the story length that did not allow it to fill it to its complete development.  Torres’ fascination with Kai? Yes, I got that but not Ryo’s to the extent that he would detonate his life,including a job he loved, over him.  That case was never made.  As to Kai himself?  I liked him and what we knew of his backstory but again there was too much missing to really ever connect with him fully either.

So for me this story works on several levels but not enough to connect me with the characters and make me care about their fate. I can’t determine whether this is due to the influence of manga yaoi or not.  Hybrids can be tricky things and everything must work in harmony to pull it off and this story falls short of that goal in my opinion.  But I am enthused to find Josh Lanyon writing again and hope his time off has recharged his creativity and his enjoyment of his craft.  I can’t wait for the next story to come.  If you love Josh Lanyon and want to see what he has been working on and enjoy yaoi, then this story will be of interest to you.  But if you are new to Josh Lanyon and his stories,  then I would start elsewhere to make a start with his stories.

Cover by KB Smith

Cover Art by Faith L.

Cover photo by Reinekke and licensed through Shutterstock

Josh Lanyon’s website

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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