Rating: 4. 5 stars out of 5
The Boystown Mystery series continues as Chicago private investigator Nick Nowak finds himself involved in three new cases. He’s asked to help a young man who murdered his stepfather but refuses to assist in his own defense, hired to find the murderer of a dead porno star, and, in a case that traps him between the two men he loves, must search for a serial killer’s only living victim. Set in the second half of 1981, Nick juggles his deepening relationship with Detective Bert Harker with the return of his ex, Daniel Laverty. Which man will he choose? Or will he be able to choose?
In this second collection of stories, the character of Nick Novak continues to develop, revealing more of himself and the tangled web of emotions and relationships he’s caught up in. Nick is unable to let go of his past and his first love, Daniel Laverty. The trauma under which they parted has a great deal to do with that and the fact that Nick has never effectively dealt with it.
Now there’s a man who is demanding his time and attention, Detective Bert Harker, a police officer he met through a case. Much like Nick, when he was on the force, Harker is determined to stay in the closet until retirement not only because he saw what happened to Nick but also due to the rampant homophobia daily on display in the Chicago PD. Thornton delivers a wrenching portrait of a man who no longer trusts his own feelings, who isn’t able to recognize his own state of emotions with regard to love, and uses sex to deflect finding any answers within himself. Anyone who is available for quick sex in any form is used for physical and often emotional release, whether Nick admits it or not.
That includes friends with their own “boyfriends” and issues, clients, former clients, and odd hookup with a source of information. Nick sets a new low for lack of professionalism and he knows how dangerously he’s skirting the boundaries. Nick is still very much a main in pain and very slowly trying to recover from the loss of his job, family, and lover.
It’s still sex, drugs, murder, and the 80’s surrounding Nick Novak and his cases so in the background you get a roll call of the news of that era, playlists that will still sound familiar, and many gadgets/electronic devices that thankfully are now consigned to museum status (think typewriters to mimeographs). Thornton’s stories are both familiar and yet just placed far enough in the past to give us a perspective that will have a chilling impact as certain events and facts start to intrude into these stories and these characters lives.
The murder cases are fascinating. And they will continue to impact Nick in the books future down the road. How they are solved, the step by step process, the grunt work, how Nick work’s it out…the reader is there with him making all the connections. All the stories are told in first person narrative. It’s that gritty, wry, dark voice of Nick that drives these stories. Nick perseveres when no one else will, despite an inner voice telling him not too. He knows when his actions are indulgent or destructive and yet he does them anyway. And when he finally gives way and acknowledges some small insight into his inner turmoil? It becomes shockingly brilliant portrait of a man at a crossroads in his life.
Nick and all those you will meet here will leave a lasting impression on you. That I promise. The writing is superb, the characterizations phenomenal, and the stories will leave a lasting impact, all the more so when taken as a whole.
This is the last book that includes a collection. From here each novel goes to complete stories with one case and Nick dealing with his increasingly complicated personal life.
A note about the sex, promiscuity and “cheating”. This is the 80’s and the gay scene in Chicago. This is not romance. This is a time of sex, tons of hookups, where being monogamist was more perhaps “hetexronormive” and less gay. It was a time of bathhouses, swinging, cocaine, and so much more. It was also when the first small rumors starts of a illness that seemed to hit only gay men, called at first the “gay flu”.
So if you as a reader are looking for a romance or won’t read books with cheating, here’s a couple of things to consider. One, this isn’t a romance and,. secondly, its hard judging the sexual morality of era like the 80’s from today’s perspective. They were coming off of times where they had been hiding who they were, many fearing for decades for their lives if it was known they were homosexuals. The 80’s were a veritable floodgates of freedom compared to the past. And the sex was a reflection of that. So, anyway, still perhaps this might not be the book or series for you but I hope you will give it a try. Otherwise you’ll be missing out on a incredible series.
I highly recommend this collection. Indeed I say that about the entire Boystown series and its author Marshall Thornton. More to come. Stay tuned.
Cover art again is more about the tone and less about the era and theme. Works for branding but I’m not really a fan.
Kindle Edition, 241 pages
Published January 9th 2015 (first published July 28th 2010)
Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK (PREOR