For a couple decades, starting with Nancy Drew right on through to Elmore Leonard, mysteries were my constant companion. I was sometimes an anxious child and the effect of a whodunit was cathartic. Paradoxically, terror rinsed anxiety.
In my early 20s I worked as a volunteer counselor at a rape crisis center. With real life violence so close, I could no longer stomach mysteries. Still, I longed for a good whodunit as I imagine former smokers long for cigarettes. They were the pause that refreshes.
So it was with hope and some trepidation that I read Stephanie Gayle’s police procedural Idyll Threats.
I am happy to report that it follows the convention of the procedural with details of interviews and forensic evidence but the details are not so grisly as to incite real world fear.
But what I liked most about Idyll Threats, was the protagonist, Chief Thomas Lynch. He is sharply observant, sardonic, and underneath it all, tender. He is also an ex-New York cop, drummed out of Gotham after a drug bust went wrong and the perp murdered his coke-addicted partner.
Lynch is a fish out of water in Idyll, Connecticut, where murders can be counted on one hand and the Laundromat doubles as the bar, called, wait for it, “Suds.”
So when a girl turns up dead on the Idyll golf course, Chief, ex-big-city cop, should solve the crime in five-minutes and thus win the love and trust of the department, the mayor and the whole town, right?
But the Chief is also gay and closeted in 1997 when being gay and a police chief were not just oxymoronic but a likely career ender. As it happens he met the murder victim hours before her death, but to exploit that lead he’d have to admit he was gay. And he can’t do that. Chief’s greatest love—his job—is in direct conflict with his core self.
As Chief battles inner demons, homophobia and his secretary, the ineffable Mrs. Dunsmore, Gayle grants us rare access to the man and the Chief.
Word is that Gayle is nearly finished with the second in the Thomas Lynch series. I can’t wait.