A MelanieM Release Day Review: Late Fees (Pinx Video Mysteries, #3) by Marshall Thornton


Rating: 5 stars out of 5 (double for the recipe at the back of the story)


It’s Thanksgiving, 1992 and Noah Valentine is late picking his mother up from the airport. When he arrives he discovers that she’s made a friend on the flight whose also waiting for her son. When women’s son doesn’t show up, they eventually take the woman home for breakfast with neighbor’s Marc and Louis. Soon after, they learn that the woman’s son has overdosed—or has he?

Noah and his motley crew investigate over the holiday weekend; which includes a fabulous dinner, a chat with a male stripper, a tiny little burglary and some help from Detective Tall, Dark, and Delicious.

I can usually count on a Marshall Thornton story to be many things.  Always excellently written, beautifully researched if historic in nature, often heart wrenchingly poignant, gritty, and grounded authentically in whatever reality is going for current in that story. His characters are puzzle piece perfect for the story universes he creates. Realistic, believable, human and flawed.  His men have been sliced up by life, often by ex partners, and are in the process of re-assembling what’s left of themselves and their lives, if possible.  Through these men, we feel their pain, sadness, loss over dreams, rage, and even, a sense of irony at times.  Small flights of humor, a bit dry.

These stories and series (Boystown and Pinx Video) are incredible and in my opinion, must reads.  What I have never described one of those stories are is guffaw inducing or heartwarming or endearing. Nope, never thought those adjectives would find themselves into a Marshall Thornton review, especially one of his murder mystery novels.  Guess what?  All three apply here.

No one is more surprised than I am.

Late Fees (Pinx Video Mysteries, #3) by Marshall Thornton actually had me in tears of laughter at times!  All due to one character.  Angie Valentine, Noah’s mother.

Marshall Thornton has been awarded many literary prizes, and imo due many more.  But just for the creation of Angie Valentine, I would award him something special just for her alone!

She jumpstarts this story and Noah’s involvement in yet another murder mystery when she lands in LA on a visit to see her son.    On the plane she’s befriended (or the other way around) a woman, Joanne, also traveling to see her “gay son” Rod. They’ve hit it off swimmingly amidst drinks and perhaps some pharmaceuticals.  The memory Noah has of his mother Angie is not jiving with the woman he’s picking up late from the airport, along with Joanne. Lively, a little drunk or tipsy, this is a woman so full of life that strangers gravitate towards her. And she towards them.  Curious and outgoing…this woman is out for adventure!  But it’s her large heart that shepherds Joanne into Noah’s life and her’s.

Also into the lives of Noah’s neighbors downstairs, Marc and Louis, who are busy with decorating their space for the holidays and preparations for Thanksgiving for their small group of friends.  When Joanne’s son Rod is discovered dead, Angie invites her home with her and Noah…into Noah’s tiny condo.  Convinced that Rod wouldn’t take his own life, Angie, Noah, and the group is thrown back into a murder investigation with Angie finding out the truth about her son’s  past involvements for the first time.

Even as I write this I want to run back for my Kindle and start that story all over again.  The relationship between mother and son is tender, funny, complicated, and surprising.  With revelations on both sides,  it’s still Angie who keeps coming up with new layer after layer to herself that leaves Noah with his jaw on the floor while his friends just embrace the wonder that is this woman.  Trust me if I could have crawled into that novel, I would have too.    There is the scene in the leather bar The Hawk that is worth the price of this book alone!

As Noah, Angie, Marc, Louis and others investigate  the circumstances behind Rod’s death, Noah reaches out to Javier, Detective Javier O’Shea from previous mysteries.  That comes with it’s own problems and  emotional complexities for both men.  I love the dynamics that are being slowly played out between them, the tension and attraction never fades no matter the how long it’s been or the fact that Noah refuses to communicate truthfully with Javier.

Oh what a book!  Full of suspense, lots of twists and turns in the murder mystery but the heart of the story?  It’s in the relationships.  Between Rod and Joanne.  Angie and Noah.  Angie and well, everyone she comes into contact with and leaves better off.  And of course, Noah and his close family of friends at Thanksgiving.  It’s a cornucopia of emotions! We get a wealth of family of all types, love in every aspect, sadness, happiness, surprise, joy, and heartwarming sappiness too.  Did I forget to mention again the outright laughter?  Yes indeed, that as well.

There is another element, a huge one here in the series but as its not been disclosed in any of the blurbs I won’t do so in my reviews.  But I love the manner in which the author is dealing with it here, it’s just so well done.  Just as I would expect from Marshall Thornton.

I can’t let a review go by without mentioning some of the fun historically accurate elements folded effortlessly into this tale…a flyaway mention here and there.  Moonies in their yellow robes at the airport, Laserdisc players (shakes head), Sony Trinitron TVs, Sister Act on VHS (because someone didn’t have a Laserdisc player hooked up), the scandal of Sinead O’Connor on SNL…I hate to mention how many I actually remember.

I love this story, it’s my favorite so far in a series I love.  I will leave you with the words of a seemingly unflappable woman, who embraces it all, whether it’s everything a leather bar is showcasing or being questioned by an irate LAPD Homicide Detective.  Here’s an exchange between Noah and Angie at the end when she’s getting ready to leave for the airport:

“Mom, after this visit I don’t think I have any secrets left.”

“Well then I suggest that you get busy.


That’s her and their relationship in a nutshell.  Perfection.  So is this book.

If you need more incentive, there’s the Thanksgiving menu that the group dines on in the back.  Yes, you need that too!  Along with the pumpkin pie recipe.  *Throws up arms* Hows many more stars can I give this book?

Cover art by Marshall Thornton. Love that cover.  Works for branding the series and this story specifically.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 177 pages
Expected publication: November 10th 2018 by Kenmore Books
Edition Language English
Series A Pinx Video Mystery #3


Night Drop

Hidden Treasures

Late Fees

A MelanieM Review: Hidden Treasures (A Pinx Video Mystery #2) by Marshall Thornton


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

It’s about a dress. A valuable blue sequined dress worn by a famed actress in a film from the 1940s. For some reason everyone thinks video storeowner Noah Valentine has it. Which might not be a big deal except that it’s connected to the murder of a prominent Hollywood costumer.

In the second of the Pinx Video Mysteries, Noah attempts to solve the mystery of the dress. To do so, he must confront a legendary film icon Wilma Wanderly, hunky police Detective Javier O’Shea, the dowager Queen of Watts and a couple of bitter ex-friends.

I am wild about Hidden Treasures and the Pinx Video Mystery series by Marshall Thornton.  Extremely well written, evocative of an era still so close to ours that we can remember all the telling details that makes this book and series ring with familiarity and yet far enough removed that it feels nostalgic. Ah video tapes cartridges…VHS…some may remember from Blockbuster if you didn’t have the smaller privately owned stores like this nearby?  Clunky black rectangles that you rushed to return?  No?

Thornton’s tales are supplied with the names of songs, tv series, movies, books, and every day “go to” gadgets and calendars you had to have.  Yet, none of it feels false or as though the author is dumping too much “historical” facts into his novel.  No, it’s all woven into this series with an ease and a  “normalcy” that often hardly ripples the narrative.  Maybe a slight double take, an appreciative nod, a “oh I forgot about those” from me…but often I’m so buried in the story and the characters that a mention bubbled up pages later in my mind and a note to go back later to look it up.

Oh, man, these characters.  Especially the pragmatic yet wounded Noah.  I have a hard time coming up with the right words not only to describe him but also how much I love this character.  And it’s a love that is growing deeper by the book.  He’s admirable, intelligent, courageous, and often kind.  He’s not hopeful, not yet.  I’m not sure he ever will be in these times.  But each book is proving to be a revelation about him and for him.  I won’t say more.  You need to read the first story Night Drop (A Pinx Video Mystery, #1 to understand what’s going on with Noah and his history.   To say anything more spoils that incredible story and this one. And that just won’t do.

Noah is surrounded by friends equally memorable.  You got to know them in Night Drop but here they actually feel like family.  As does a certain Detective.  They feel alive, believable, authentic, and in some cases, haunting.  This was the 80’s after all.

Marshall Thornton has won awards for his writing.  I hope he’s won them for this series.  If not, he should because they are incredible.  The writing is superb, the characters beyond memorable, the mysteries complicated and entertaining, and the stories  themselves have staying power, an emotional heft that carries far beyond those little words The End.

Now to wait and see what’s next in store for Noah and Pinx Video.  I can hardly wait.  If you haven’t discovered Marshall Thornton, pick up his Pinx Video series, both of them.  I highly recommend them both, including Hidden Treasures.

Cover art is amazing.  I just love the covers for this series. Interesting, pertinent, and great for branding.

Buy Links: Amazon |     books2read.com/HiddenTreasures

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 229 pages
Published January 28th 2018 by Kenmore Books
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesA Pinx Video Mystery #2



Review Tour and Giveaway – Hidden Treasures (A Pinx Video Mystery #2) by Marshall Thornton



Length: 59,000 words approx.

Itís about a dress. A valuable blue sequined dress worn by a famed actress in a film from the 1940s. For some reason everyone thinks video store owner Noah Valentine has it. Which might not be a big deal except that itís connected to the murder of a prominent Hollywood costumer.

In the second of the Pinx Video Mysteries, Noah attempts to solve the mystery of the dress. To do so, he must confront a legendary film icon Wilma Wanderly, hunky police Detective Javier OíShea, the dowager Queen of Watts and a couple of bitter ex-friends.

January 31 – MM Good Book Reviews
February 2 – BookLove
February 5 – Valerie Ullmer
February 7 – Dog-Eared Daydreams
Author Bio

Marshall Thornton is known for the Lambda Award-winning Boystown Mysteries. His comedic novels include The Ghost Slept Over, My Favorite Uncle and the Lambda Finalist for Gay Romance, Femme. Marshall holds an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA and has had plays produced in both Chicago and Los Angeles and stories published in The James White Reviewand Frontier Magazine.



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A MelanieM Recent Review: Night Drop (A Pinx Video Mystery #1) by Marshall Thornton


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.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

ebook, 201 pages
Published September 15th 2017 by Kenmore Books
Original TitleNight Drop
SeriesA Pinx Video Mystery #1