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

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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
ASIN B07GZYZDSX
Edition Language English
Series A Pinx Video Mystery #3

Series:

Night Drop

Hidden Treasures

Late Fees

A MelanieM Review: Heart’s Desire (Boystown #11) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

It’s February 1985. Nick struggles to recover from a gunshot wound, while taking on the case of a woman with a mental illness, who may or may not have witnessed a murder. As he attempts to determine exactly what the woman saw and how much danger she may be in, he juggles the approaching DeCarlo trial, an ill Mrs. Harker, and the sexually precocious Terry. Valentine’s Day with boyfriend Joseph produces some big changes in their relationship.

Life is evolving, but there’s no guarantee it’s for the better.

I find it interesting how Marshall Thornton has written each book as almost as a mirror held up against the life (both inner reflections and daily outer living) of PI Nick Nowak.  In some books the stories flow along with his struggles, both emotional and physical, occasionally ending up with some light and hope for Nick and the readers.

But with Heart’s Desire (Boystown #11), the latest in this  incredible series, the struggle gets darker, heavier for many around him, including his mother in law  (sort of), his friend with HIV, even his building super.  Oh, and himself, still fighting to recover from being shot  It’s going very slowly.And Nick can’t understand why he’s physically not himself, including no sexual relations with his boyfriend.

Joseph would like Nick to reject jobs that need surveillance, the very things have have gotten him injured.  That’s not something that Nick thinks can he do, and while he’s thinking about his relationship and his health, a case comes his way in fhe form of his super’s sister who believes she’s seen a dead body and refuses to go back to her apartment.  Should be easy excerpt that the  sister has mental  illness and there’s no body.  A typical case for Nick because it’s convoluted, dark, and, connecting the dots for Nick manage to bring him up against people that impinge on other parts of his life.

There are so many obligations and emotional strings tugging at  Nick now.  Mrs. Harker has terminal cancer and facing that and her role in his life is rough for Nick, equally so for Terry, the young student who spends most of his time with her and how has a “mature” boyfriend, another factor Nick and his friends are having issues with.

Marshall Thornton threads all these incredibly complicated storylines through the novel and Nick’s life with such craft and such raw, gritty writing that the narrative and characters stick to your heart, making you think, making you hurt for them.  And in this series and because we know the era and history, we fear for them.  We know what they are dancing around…the elephant in the room.  The tests that some haven’t or won’t take.  AIDS.  It’s the dark shadow that looms over Nick, his lover, and all his friends and any future they might have.

Heart’s Desire (Boystown #11) by Marshall Thornton is a must read story in a must read series.  I’m not sure how many the author plans.  If he intends to finish the 80’s, because we are at 1985 now and he other series, Pinx Video,  starts in the 1990’s.  I want more and yet I fear what’s to come.

I can’t recommend this story and series more highly  enough!

Cover art: Marshall Thornton. Works for branding the series and  storyline.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 210 pages
Published August 10th 2018
ASINB07DFMSRTN
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #11

A MelanieM Review: Gifts Given (Boystown #10) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5

In the tenth installment of the award-winning Boystown Mysteries. it’s Christmas 1984, and Nick is busy juggling a couple of cases with his hectic personal life. Sugar Pilson has decided to marry and has asked him to check up on her fiancé. Meanwhile, he’s hired to investigate a shady financial planner at Peterson-Palmer.

When the two cases begin to have too much in common, Nick searches for the link. Only to find out that he himself might be the link.

In Gifts Given, Nick Nowak and his friends are heading towards Christmas.  Nick is fumbling to find a gift for Joseph, he lacks a steady source of  employment as he has given up working for Owen’s law firm and Jimmy English after the last disastrous series of events, and  Mrs Harker isn’t feeling well.

As with all things Nick, the old and familiar seem to circle back around as a previous employer has come to him with a case.  He wants Nick to investigate his current in house investigator and the financial planner there as well.  At the same time his friend/former client/Chicago socialite Sugar Pilson needs his services too.  It seems that she wants her current boyfriend investigated.  And, oh, yes, someone seems to be following her.

Yes, Nick has a full schedule and that doesn’t even include Christmas dinner, murderous attempts on his life, and more worries about his relationship with Joseph.

If I have to make a note, the overall tone here is somber, sad, and, while moving, as glum as I’ve seen Nick in a while.  Its as thought the hope I saw has just about flickered out by the end of the story, which is something I’m missing.  Not that this isn’t realistic or true to form for Nick or the circumstances he finds himself in.

Its just every now and again, I’d love to see Nick win, one or two.  Maybe just one.  Outright.  Life can give him that, right?

Instead, here,  with one complex turn and revelation after another, Nick ends  up delving deeper and deeper into a convoluted mystery that has it hooks into the past, Who’s I won’t reveal but clearly it will stretch into more than one story if my guesses are correct.

I’m “enjoying” just how all the puzzle pieces are fitting together, even if the end result might make my heart hurt. I suspect it will ache quite a lot.  Plus a villain slipped away…to reappear again in another story?

The writing is crisp, the storyline, dark and involved, the overall tone more emotional and heavy, reflective but then again Nick is changing.  His inner circle wider, including Ross who is HIV positive who lives with Nick and Joseph.  A group of friends, an ability to accept help and need people which is a far cry from the Nick we meet in the first story.  This is a far more vulnerable, open, and  older Nick.  One I fear for more,  one for whom the losses are coming.

As if  he hasn’t had enough.

But it ends with a wedding, such as it was.  A temporary calm that was a small gift that NIck accepted.

What a series.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover art by Marshall Thornton/

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 213 pages
Published November 17th 2017
ASINB075CTYG83
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #10
Literary AwardsLambda Literary Award Nominee for Gay Mystery (2018)

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 

A MelanieM Review: Lucky Days (Boystown, #9) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

In the ninth book of the bestselling mystery series, a young man wakes up covered in blood and no memory of the previous night. When hypnotism doesn’t help, he turns to private investigator Nick Nowak. Meanwhile, the trial of Outfit kingpin Jimmy English begins.

Quickly the case begins to unravel when an important witness goes missing and Nick must put his other cases, and his home life, on hold while he goes to Las Vegas to find him. (

You know things aren’t going to go well in a book titled Lucky Days when the story involves Nick Nowak.  And it doesn’t.

Lucky for Nick and the people he comes in contact with never has the outcome anyone expects.  And the factor of luck?  Well, if luck is involved, then the twist maybe one best looked at out of a carnival mirror.

Nick is still on the case of Jimmy English as its heading towards trial but in the meantime he gets another one.  A young black gay male wakes up with no memory of the night before but with blood on his clothes.  Too much blood that he cant’ explain. And he wants Nick to investigate what’s happened.  Even if he’s guilty of a crime of not, he wants to know.

That’s small time compared to Jimmy English’s case because a major witness has  just disappeared, and that sends Nick on his first plane trip to Vegas in the 80’s (an eye opener for him and us) in search of Micky T.  This section of the story proves to be exciting, suspenseful, bittersweet, and, as always, incredibly complex due to the emotions it pulls on and the plots threads its weaving.  Plus the character of Mickey who has  been a continuing element throughout the series becomes even more real here in his hopes and his true love, and failures.  How you end up feeling for this guy.

And while Nick is juggling both the Jimmy English case, Mickey,  there is the poor guy with short term amnesia to figure out.  Without police help because of their attitude toward poor blacks who also happen to be gay in Chicago in the 80’s.  Thornton realistically leads us through what it would feel like to live in those times and what those attitudes felt like reflected back at you off of a badge.

The courtroom drama was amazing.  Pants glued to the chair,  on tenterhooks waiting the next development, full of twists I didn’t see coming and neither did Nick.  The Jimmy English case finally comes to a close here with one might say is a “lucky” conclusion.  But really its all in the perception as Nick would tell you.

I haven’t mentioned much about Nick’s home life with Joseph.  It’s there.  Stymied a bit.  There’s a storm brewing and a heck of a cliffhanger in a most perfect of Marshall Thornton way’s.

What an incredible book.  I know, I know.  But it’s true and it earns it.  Heart worn, heart sore, and still Nick Nowak continues on.  I can’t get enough of this man and his stories.  The Sisyphus of Chicago mysteries and he has me hooked good.

Yes, I recommend Lucky Days but if you’re a newb, head to the first story and start there.  Don’t miss out on any part of the journey in front of you.  Read them in the order they are written.  Then Lucky Days.  Now onto the next one.

Cover art: Marshall Thornton

Sales Link:  Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 207 pages
Published January 13th 2017 by Kenmore Books
ASINB01N01AUUY
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #9

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: The Lies That Bind (Boystown #8) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

 

The eighth book of the best-selling Boystown Mystery Series begins with a phone call in the middle of the night. Private investigator Nick Nowak is pulled into the troubled world of freelance journalist, and all around pain-in-the-ass, Christian Baylor.

When Christian can’t stop lying about the corpse in his bathroom things slip slowly out of control. Meanwhile, Nick’s relationship with former priest Joseph Biernecki takes an unexpected turn and the Federal case against Jimmy English proceeds toward trial.

Here we are, into the eighth book in the Boystown series, and  as a result of all the events he has had to go through,the character of Nick Nowak is showing some real growth and changes in his life.

He’s running (when the unrelenting heat of the Chicago summer permits), he’s turned his new lakefront apartment into a home, has established routines with Mrs Harker on Sundays, Brian and his boyfriend. He’s even  deepening his own relationship with the ex priest Joseph, which is different than all the others he’s had before.  Yes, Nick Nowak has become monogamous, a circumstance that has surprised him and happened without him realizing it. Or talking about it with  Joseph.  Even Nick’s bank account is flush with money…an even rarer oddity.

So of course, things get snarled and messy for Nick just as he thinks he may have some things in his life figured out.

I think that if you haven’t especially emphasized with Nick before, perhaps because of his infidelities and outlook on sex, this is the story, that brings you over to Nick’s side.  It will be in Nick’s relationship with Joseph, their dynamics, their  new relationship fraught with surprises for them both.  How the dynamics in the relationship is handled by both men over the course of the story is important because, not only does it feel real, grounded in the reality of the way people handle changes in their romances and perceptions, but because it marks a maturity and growth not seen before.

All the while that is happening between Nick and Joseph, Nick is heavily involved in two cases. One that is a carry over from the previous stories involving Jimmy English and Owen’s law firm.  The other is new involving an old acquaintance…Christian Baylor.  A pain in Nick’s proverbial ass, former friend of sorts of Harker’s, and somewhat yellow journalist looking to up his game.

Both mysteries are creative and complex.  Jimmy English’s keeps evolving over the series of stories.  Everytime you think Nick and the reader has a handle on where it’s going, Marshall Thornton changes direction and victim/culprits.  Its compelling, dark, and a puzzle you can’t turn away from.  And its not  over here.  The end is not is sight yet which makes me happy.  Jimmy English himself is a character that I’ve come to be addicted to as well (not a healthy thing in these novels with their high body count).

So is the one with Christian and the body in the hallway.  With Nick and his cases, nothing is ever straightfordward.  There are layers of deceit, links to Nick or people he knows to deal with, and emotions dredged up that Nick somehow must learn to deal with.  Also physical danger and tons of suspense.

How I love these stories.  So many outstanding elements and all handled expertly!

One last note on one of those elements.  That would be the 80’s factor here.  Marshall Thornton’s use of topics and elements from that era to bring the fact that these stories and Nick live in the 1980’s vividly alive is done so well.  Here AIDS has progressed throughout the US as has the research into how it is spread.  People are starting to talk a little more knowledgeably about it but the fear about blood contamination is rising as well (how well I remember that phase). AIDS, its growth, has been a common factor throughout the series.  You can chart the first whispers of it beginning with book 1, the chills making those early books all the more memorable because you know where it will lead you.

Other 80’s elements are mind boggling.  The double floppy disk Wang computer system that’s long disappeared from memory, COMPAQs, the appearance of IMB systems and a huge brick like mobile phone costing $4,000.  Amazing.  There’s more of course, but those made honorable mention in my mind for this review.  Thornton handles all the aspects of that era, big and small with equal respect and importance.  From sports scores, to newspapers, tech equipments down to music and clothes wear….the research is impeccable.  And folded into the narrative just as it should, matter of factly and not as an historic statement.

Yes, I love this, yes, I  recommend it and all the others that go before and should be read in the order written.  One of my top books/series of the year.

Cover art by Marshall Thornton

Sales Link: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 244 pages
Published February 21st 2016 by Kenmore Books
ASINB019ZS0SHM
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #8

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: Bloodlines (Boystown #7) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

WINNER LAMBDA AWARD GAY MYSTERY

In the seventh book of the best-selling Boystown Mystery series, Private Investigator Nick Nowak finds himself simultaneously working two cases for his new client, law firm Cooke, Babcock and Lackerby. A suburban dentist has been convicted of murdering her adulterous husband.

Nick is asked to interview witnesses for the penalty phase of the trial—and possibly find the dead man’s mistress. At the same time, he’s deeply involved in protecting Outfit underboss Jimmy English from a task force out to prosecute him for a crime he may not have committed. While juggling these cases Nick slowly begins to rebuild his personal life.

In Bloodlines, Nick Nowak is slowly putting his life back together after the shattering events of Murder Book.  He’s back in the investigative business and working for his friend Owen’s law  firm on several cases at once, one of which he has personal ties to.

On the home front?  Several things have shown him its more than time for him to find a new apartment,  issues with teenager Terry  arise and Mrs. Harker becomes an ever bigger part of Nick’s life.

Thornton’s ability to weave so many different emotional threads through his stories, keep them all vividly alive and connected at the right places to NIck and the reader, while pushing through not one but two murder/mystery cases?  Just amazing!

Plus in Nick’s awkward, “yeah, that’s not working well” sort of way, a romance or at least a burgeoning relationship is trying to take some baby steps.  Of course, with Nick, that means sex immediately. For the other person?  Not so much.  Which leads to issues and  some very frustrating times.

The cases that Nick is working on have very deep moral/philosophical questions behind them if one is the type to ask them (as Nick is).  One case involves the older mobster Jimmy English, who has always been good to Nick, and while he may not have committed this particular murder, has most certainly committed many others in his past.  And the other case?  A woman who refuses to talk about why she killed her philandering husband.  Owen wants Nick to find out anything that will make a jury more sympathetic.  Two muddy, convoluted cases, full of roadblocks, and craters before Nick can find any answers.

How each investigation unrolls won’t be discussed but they are compelling, moving, and the results of each astonishing.  One I guessed halfway through partially but it was only a half of what was to come.  As is with most of Nick’s investigations, Marshall Thornton uses his knowledge of human behavior, and gives us another Nick Nowak novel that contains both the bittersweetness of life and some hope for the future.

Thank the gods for the perspective of Nick Nowak.  His voice makes the series. It’s caustic, knowing, rueful, determined,  reasonably kind, and always human.  I can’t get enough of it.  Bloodlines, the path to his recovery, is a great example of that. Yes, I can see why it won the Lambda Literary Award but then I don’t see why the others didn’t.

I highly recommend this story and all the others in the series.  But read them in the order they were written.  None are stand alone stories and follow along the narrative order.

Cover art matches the others in the series and works emotionally.

Sales Link: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 194 pages
Published March 6th 2015 by Kenmore Books
ASINB00TCZK428
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #7
Literary Awards Lambda Literary Award for Gay Mystery (2016)

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: 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: Murder Book (Boystown 5) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 5 plus  stars out of 5

 

In the second of the Boystown mysteries to be a finalist for the Lambda Award, it’s fall 1982 and Chicago is gripped by panic after five people die from poisoned Tylenol capsules. Amid the chaos, the Bughouse Slasher takes his eighth victim, this time striking close to private investigator Nick Nowak.

With the Chicago Police Department stretched to its limit, Nick takes matters into his own hands. But what will he do with the Bughouse Slasher once he finds him.

Just when you think you know how Marshall Thornton will break your heart, his characters and story twists and shatters it in ways you never expected.

That’s what happened in Murder Book, the fifth novel in Marshall Thornton’s Boystown series. In this story, the author lifts a horrific series of murders direct from the  80’s headlines, that of the Tylenol poisonings of 1982 in Chicago.  It changed the pharmaceutical industry and our nation but here Thornton uses it as a narrative framework wherein he place’s another murder investigation ongoing at the same time.  Each investigation has the same parameters.    There have been multiple murders. The race is on to catch the killer before they strike again. But there it stops.

The Tylenol poisoner is high profile.  The search has the backing of many agencies.  It’s victims range from a child to adults and its potential victims could be anyone.  The fear is overwhelming the population and the push to find the culprit enormous.  No expense is being spared.

Then there is the other one.  The smaller investigation.  One that has been all but  forgotten.  That of the Bughouse Slasher who’s targets are young gay men, often found on the streets.  Not victims that the Chicago PD or anyone is pushing to solve their murders especially.  Excerpt for the now ill, ex Det Harker and his lover Nick Novak who have become involved through previous events and Harker’s former  Slasher cases.

Starting from the very first page, everything has come home to Nick Novak.  Its like walking into a wound that’s still tearing open.  And that walking trauma is NIck as we start to live his life.  This story is shocking, heartbreaking, gritty and real.  It will bring together many of the people we have come to know in a relentless search for a killer.

There will be no spoilers here.  Just simply my endless admiration for the author who created such a character, and has stayed true to him, messy life, unbelievable pain, and struggles to continue.  It is unbelievably compelling reading.  Brilliant even to the point that even once through is not enough.

When someone asks you, what are the characters that have made an impact on you, Nick Novak, is on that list.  This story is among the reasons  why as is the series.

Start at the first collection and see why for yourself today.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover art works to brand the series and sets the tone for the story.

Sales Links:Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 184 pages
Published February 6th 2015 (first published April 4th 2013)
ASINB00R0HDAZS
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #5
Literary AwardsLambda Literary Award Nominee for Gay Mystery (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

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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

A MelanieM Review: Two Nick Nowak Novellas (Boystown #3) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

 

In the two novellas that make up the third book in the popular Boystown Mysteries private Investigator Nick Nowak works two challenging cases and grapples with an even more challenging personal life.

In Little Boy Boom, Nick’s car explodes when a thief attempts to steal it. Realizing the bomb was meant for him, Nick sets out to discover who wants him dead only to find that the list of possible suspects is longer than he’d like. When he begins to run out of suspects he wonders if the bomb was truly meant for him.

Little Boy Tenor finds Nick investigating the murderer of a church choir’s star tenor, while at the same time his friend Ross asks him to discover the truth behind his lover, Earl Silver’s mysterious death. As he juggles the two cases, he becomes increasingly disturbed by what he learns.

Two Nick Nowak Novellas (Boystown #3) by Marshall Thornton see’s Chi town’s dour, promiscuous private investigator torn between two men and deep into two cases that will impact not only himself on a deeply personal level but those close to him.

The cases have flashes of violence (murder is like that), the people seeking Nick’s help often see the P.I. hunting for clues in the seediest areas of Chicago all the way through Catholic parishes attended by his  estranged family to the haunts of Chicago’s upper society.  There is no where that Nick won’t go in pursuit of answers and a swift sexual hookup. Yes, sex and Nick are inseparable.  He never met a blowjob he didn’t like…mostly.  Even now when maybe, in the back of his mind, the thoughts are poking at him that perhaps he should  change his promiscuous ways. Not that he listens very long.  These are the years when they don’t even use condoms. No precautions are taken.  It’s just one slutfest after another, threeways and drugs included. Until something starts to happen.

Set in the early 80’s, there have been whispers of men falling ill and dying of the “gay flu”.  Then in bits and pieces Nick and various characters start to read about a bigger population, and then more theories as Ross’ lover Earl dies of a mysterious death.  And far worse, Nick’s lover Bert Harker falls ill. As Bert’s physical state deteriorates, both men look for answers and Nick faces his true feelings about Bert and Daniel.  It’s bleak, revealing, and heartrending because we have the  perspective and knowledge of the future.  We know where this particular path will lead them and so many others.  We saw the tiny pieces start to appear in the first two collections.  Small chilling appearances in the narrative that made the reader stop and take a deep breath.  And then go “oh no, please no”.  Because what’s the present for these characters is recent history for us. Inarguable, indisputable, horrific, painful history.  We know what they will live through, and because Marshall Thornton’s brilliant stories has made us care for them, we can’t look away.  We shouldn’t look away.

Their lives are messy, alive, human and so worth reading about.  And they are intertwined with Nick’s cases which will continue to have reverberations down  through the books to come.  It’s all connected, as are all the people you will continue to meet.

Marshall Thornton is weaving a Boystown tapestry of sex, murder, love, AIDS, and life in the 80’s. It’s gritty, dark complicated and ultimately moving.  It’s also not to be missed.

Cover art works for branding the series.  i wish it was more in tone like his Pinx Video series.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 194 pages
Published January 9th 2015 (first published June 1st 2011)
ASIN B00QZKR5YS
Edition Language English
Series Boystown #3

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