A MelanieM Review: From the Ashes (Boystown #6) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

It’s winter 1984. Private Investigator Nick Nowak has allowed his life to fall to pieces: He’s stopped taking cases, given up his apartment and taken a job as a bartender at a sleazy joint tucked under the El. All he wants to do is stay hidden and lick his wounds after the death of his lover, Detective Bert Harker.

But when the least likely person in the world shows up at the bar and asks him to take a new case, he finds himself investigating the very unsuspicious death of a priest. Nick is convinced he’s wasting his time until the clues begin to add up to something entirely unsuspected.

How does one come back from a self imposed mental and emotional death?  That’s the state that Nick Novak has put himself into after the devastating events of Murder Book (Boystown #5).  Shocked even by his own actions, Nick has given up his detection work, his apartment, and withdrawn from the few friends he had into a drunken isolation.

It takes the one person he leasts expects bringing him a case to finally draw him back into reevaluating his current affairs and where he thinks he can go from here.

Somebody needs to invent new adjectives for Marshall Thornton’s body of work. The ones we have just get overused because of novels like From the Ashes.  Words like “beautifully written, simply brilliant, and thought-provoking” are just not enough.

No, I’m not gushing.

Readers have been wondering what comes next for Nick.  How does he pick himself up?  Now we have our answer.  And it’s perfect.  Because it’s slow, punishing, and a surprise every step of the way.

Nothing is ever easy for this man. Life seems to just want to deliver the worst sort of  smackdown to him in every aspect of his life.  But eventually, up he gets.  Whether its his curiosity, or some ounce of self preservation, or determination not to let the “others” win…Nick somehow gets up and goes forward.

Thornton has always made us fall into step with this man.  Its not always been easy but we can’t help  ourselves.  Watching as Nick thinks or investigates his way through each murky, often seedy case is addictive.  So is watching the man work through his own issues past and  present (and there are many).  There are as many complications in Nick’s personal life as there are in his cases and often they overlap in surprising twisty ways.

That happens here again right from that start in the person who brings Nick the case that eventually jump starts his life again.  Of course, its going to get messy, dark, snarly, and bodies will appear.   But its also fundamentally about Nick’s loss and grieving.  It’s heartbreaking in so many ways.  Prepare yourself for that too.

Thornton uses Chicago’s many Catholic churches and parishes in this murder mystery and the fact that it’s parishioners often stayed with the  same parish and priest for years for Nick’s investigation.  It was fascinating and effective.  And I love the way the  entire story played out.

Thornton is a master at taking murder and suspense and weaving such heartfelt emotions throughout that at times you feel its so real, that Nick and the others are so much  flesh and blood, that it hurts in places to read on  (Murder Book is a prime example of that). That happens here too of course.

That we as readers have taken Nick into our hearts is due solely to Marshall Thornton, an author I love and highly recommend.  This book and series is but one place to start your introduction to him.

Yes, I highly recommend From the Ashes but its not a standalone.  It must be read in the order the books were written.  So start with the first collection and work your way here.  There’s also a terrific audiobook series, so start there if that’s more to your liking.

Cover art again is more about the emotions reflected inside and about branding the series.  I like the covers for the Pinx Video better.

Sales Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 198 pages
Published February 20th 2015 (first published December 1st 2013)
ASINB00R0HRH7A
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #6
Literary Awards Lambda Literary Award Nominee (2013)

Series:

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 (PREORDER

A MelanieM Review: A Time For Secrets (Boystown #4) by Marshall Thornton

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

In the first full-length novel of the Boystown series, it’s late summer 1982 and private detective Nick Nowak is asked to find a retired gentleman’s long lost lover. Instead, he finds himself embroiled in a decades old murder connected to the man who wants to be Chicago’s next mayor.

Meanwhile, an ambitious young reporter develops a friendship with Nick’s lover Bert, making Nick wonder exactly where their relationship may be heading.

 

Nick Novak has never quite dealt with the traumatic assault that outed him to the  Chicago PD, cost him not only his job on the force but his lover who was violently beaten in the gay bashing. A tragedy where suspects were never arrested or looked for because the victims were homosexuals.  His lover blamed him for his closeted state and being part of the PD.  His guilt, his inability to protect the one he loved? And being the one not to face years of reconstructive surgery?  All took  its toll emotionally, professionally, and mentally.

Its why NIck is a PI, estranged from most of his family, and still not able to put his past completely to rest.

Now it comes home again when an elderly man asks Nick to find a lover he made a connection with long ago.  Turns out he also has a connection with Nick.  He was the one to call Chicago PD when he witnessed Nick and his lover being attacked, and perhaps kept them from being killed.  Nick’s past and this man’s are intertwined in ways Nick is just beginning to understand.

A Time For Secrets is a dark, gritty tale.  We’ve been moving deeper into this territory with each story as the 80’s progress.  Its 1982 now.  We’ve gone from a mention of a gay flu to a mysterious virus to GRID (gay-related immune deficiency) which Harker, Nick’s Chicago PD lover, was diagnosed with.  Now they are starting to call it  AIDS while searching for answers and, of course, preventative measures.  Yes, people are starting to think they should use condoms.

Nick is still very much Nick, who is trying to handle a lover who is probably dying (although no one is saying anything), his lover’s mother (who hates Nick and blames him for Harker’s illness), and his feelings towards both Harker and the idea of commitment. While it should be work that directs his attention away from the personal issues, this case continues to direct it back, as it pulls in his  family members with their ties to the police and his past.

Thornton’s writing is fast paced and smooth for all the intricacies of plot and heavy emotional heft of this story.  Parts of it will just plan old out and out hurt to read.  That’s because these characters and their plight have become or do feel so real over the course of this story.  It may be the 80’s, but bigotry and hate know no decade.  Nor does AIDS and impending loss.

This story and series makes it all believable, vivid, and immediate again.

As it does to corruption and politics.  Also so timely.

A Time For Secrets (Boystown #4) by Marshall Thornton is another brilliant story in the Boystown series.  There are ten books in all.  They are moving, dark, sometimes hard to read, and bring forth a character and perspective that’s not to be missed.  I highly recommend both this book and the entire series.

Cover art brands the series although would not be my pick for a cover.

Sales Link:  Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:Kindle Edition, 238 pages
Published January 23rd 2015 (first published March 30th 2012)
ASINB00R1OTW98
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #4

Series:

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