Rating: 5 stars out of 5
It’s 1992 and Los Angeles is burning. Noah Valentine, the owner of Pinx Video in Silver Lake, notices the fires have taken their toll on fellow shopkeeper Guy Peterson’s camera shop. After the riots end, he decides to stop by Guy’s to pick up his overdue videos, only to find Guy’s family dividing up his belongings. He died in the camera store fire—or did he? Noah and his charmingly meddlesome downstairs neighbors begin to suspect something else might have happened to Guy Peterson. Something truly sinister.
The first in a new series from Lambda Award-winner Marshall Thornton, Night Drop strikes a lighter tone than the Boystown Mysteries, while bringing Silver Lake of the early 1990s to life.
I remember the Rodney King beating and the riots that followed in Los Angeles. Here in the Washington, DC metro area we had our own race riots of the 90’s…the Mount Pleasant riots of 1991. Still both events are in the distant past. Yet Marshall Thornton brings it vividly to life in his novel Night Drop, the first in his new series Pinx Video Mysteries set in the 1990’s.
Thornton’s main character, Noah Valentine, is the owner of Pinx Video, that relic of the past, consigned to history by new technology. Ah, VHS tapes, Blockbuster, and late returns! We meet Noah in his store with his employees wondering if his store will survive the riots currently taking place. The author seamlessly folds in all the elements and details of the era (old gadgets, movies, topics) into his story without making it a history lesson or info dump. I lived it and loved the references, noting them yet they never took my attention away from the drama that was Noah’s life and the riots occurring in L.A. Oh, and the murder too.
Yes, this is a murder mystery and a terrific one wrapped up within the tumultuous emotional times of the 90’s. Race riots, gay rights, so much more and Thornton captures it all. Noah starts off as one man who hesitates to get involved because of his own issues and then slowly he inserts himself into the investigation of a murder that no one seems to want solved in a hurry, if at all. Noah is a man already full of loss and pain, although at first we only are aware of part of the story. His long term lover, partner at this time in history, has died and they were estranged at the time of his death. That estrangement has cost Noah his home, their shared friends and more, leaving him with only the video store and his apartment in the Hills. You are able to emphasize with Noah, seeing a man in stasis, then fall in love with him as he comes back to life the more he investigates.
The characterizations here are superb. Layered, believable and in some cases, haunting. These are people who having staying power, whether it’s Noah’s friends in the apartment units around him (love them) or the Detective on the case that Noah makes a connection with. I was invested in them all emotionally, needing to know what happened to each and everyone. The verdict is still out on some and I hope to see many of them in the next story.
Then there’s the murder or should I say murders and the wild, twisty case to the revelation that follows! It was both believable and grounded in the times, yet the suspense kept me riveted to the story!
Yet the tour de force here for me is the overall picture Marshall Thornton paints. The bigotry and hate of the era, the closeted vs The Castro, the fear vs the bravery, the search for love vs the bittersweetness of the times. Oh that ending, that was a punch to the heart. And yet again the author balanced our hopes for Noah against our knowledge of the times, knowing that this is only the first of the series. We can always strive for the best for Noah can’t we?
I highly recommend Night Drop (A Pinx Video Mystery #1) by Marshall Thornton. It’s beautifully written, the story is timely given our current political climate, and the characters memorable and deeply moving. I can’t wait to see where the author takes this series next.
Cover art is amazing, it all has the elements of the 90’s front and center. I love it.
ebook, 201 pages
Published September 15th 2017 by Kenmore Books
Original TitleNight Drop
SeriesA Pinx Video Mystery #1