Book Reviews

Murder at Pirate's Cove (Secrets and Scrabble 1) by Josh Lanyon at JustJoshin Publishing

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Reviewed by ParisDude on 07-March-2020

Book Blurb

Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, Scrabble champion and guy-with-worst-luck-in-the-world-when-it-comes-to-dating, is ready to make a change. So when he learns he's inherited both a failing bookstore and a falling-down mansion in the quaint seaside village of Pirate's Cove on Buck Island, Rhode Island, it's full steam ahead! 

Sure enough, the village is charming, its residents amusingly eccentric, and widowed police chief Jack Carson is decidedly yummy (though probably as straight as he is stern). However, the bookstore is failing, the mansion is falling down, and there's that little drawback of finding rival bookseller--and head of the unwelcoming-committee--Trevor Maples dead during the annual Buccaneer Days celebration. 

Still, it could be worse. And once Police Chief Carson learns Trevor was killed with the cutlass hanging over the door of Ellery's bookstore, it is.

Book Review

Let’s not beat around the bush: life is complicated. But there is one thing that is very simple in my life. When I see that Josh Lanyon has published a new book, I don’t ask myself any questions. I get myself a copy (lately an ARC), put down any other book I might have been reading, and start the new Lanyon at once. Another simple thing: I know I’m going to enjoy the ride, and I’m never disappointed.


This is the first book of a new series, ‘Secrets and Scrabble’ (yeehaw, more to come!). The main character, young and devilishly handsome Ellery Page—New York screenwriter, so far one play to his credit; more failed than successful actor; Scrabble champion; “battle-hardened” single—has just moved to the small (fictional) seaside town of Pirate’s Cove on Buck Island, Rhode Island. In fact, his unknown late great-great-great-aunt has bequeathed her dilapidated house and crime fiction bookstore to him. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the least idea of how to run a bookstore, doesn’t know a thing about crime fiction either, and has therefore been watching his meagre savings trickle away for the last couple of weeks. One of the locals, Trevor Maples, could possibly offer him a way out of his predicament: he seems very eager to buy the bookstore. If only he weren’t so unpleasant, so full of himself, such a bully, Ellery might consider giving in to the sirens of impending poverty and big bucks. But after his last quarrel with Maples, that seems out of the question. Even more so and definitely so when, only some hours later, Ellery finds Maples in the middle of the otherwise empty bookstore, lying in a puddle of his own blood. Murdered.


Small towns can be cozy and welcoming; everybody knows everybody, people stick together; people are wont to help each other. Alas, small-town people are also quick to suspect any newcomer as soon as there is a crime in their midst. And they are very quick to gossip. Ellery learns this the hard way, because he discovers he is not only the local police’s prime suspect, but also tried and found guilty by the local newspaper. Fortunately, the widowed police chief Jack Carson (one of those hunky and taciturn alpha males Josh Lanyon seems to love creating) is not convinced by Ellery’s guilt. Mind you, he is not amused by Ellery’s amateur sleuthing, either. But whenever they meet, the very air crackles with unrelieved (sexual?) tension… Alas, the dead bodies start to pile up.


Well, yep. Josh Lanyon has come back to the cozy murder mystery subgenre of crime fiction, and it is a good thing she has. Don’t get me wrong, I like her trying out the other crime fiction genres as well, but the thing is, I’m a big sucker for cozy murder mysteries. This new novel includes everything lovers of that subgenre can expect, and then some. A small town, athmosphere galore (the sea, the dusty shop, the old house in the forest), a buccaneer festival, an upcoming election, quaint townspeople (ranging from maternal to bossy to gossipy to cold-blooded), a chance encounter with and subsequent adoption of (gasp!) a puppy… and the first signs of a heart-warming romance. No explicit sex, mind you, not even a sloppy kiss (if one doesn’t count those of the puppy), but I didn’t miss any of that. Lanyon, as usual, simply sits down, starts to weave her magic, and delivers. The plot unravels at a perfect pace, the dialogs are as witty and funny as I am accustomed to by this writer, the writing flows, solid and sure, with the odd literary quote (there’s a nice and perfectly placed Kippling-line somewhere in there)—I enjoyed every single page. Lanyon knows how much to tell and how much to simply imply. Not a sentence too much, not a hint missing.


Of course, those familiar with her œuvre will catch the similarities with one of her best-known series, at least where some settings and characters are concerned—a bookstore specialized in crime fiction, a slightly flippant main character, a police officer called Jack (where it could have been Jake, right?)… I’m sure Josh Lanyon meant this as a playful wink. Anyway, the rest is no lukewarm rehash of her old books, but a totally new invention. Josh Lanyon at her best; I could feel how much she enjoyed writing this novel, how easy both plot and sentences must have flowed out of her pen (well, fingertips, more likely). When an author takes pleasure writing a book, I think the readers can feel it while reading. I hope Josh’s pleasure-seeking is so strong that she’ll deliver book number two very quickly.





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Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novel, 206 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 29-February-2020
Price $3.99 ebook
Buy Link