A Thomas Lynch novel
By Stephanie Gayle
Available now from Seventh Street Books (Prometheus Books)
Pushcart Prize-nominee Stephanie Gayle's first mystery novel IDYLL THREATS is set in the small town of Idyll in 1997. The cops are ill-prepared to solve a murder, given that they mostly deal with traffic tickets and supervising the town festival. Luckily, the new police chief Thomas Lynch is a former New York homicide detective. His interest in working the murder of Cecelia North goes farther than that, however; he was one of the last people to see her alive. Revealing how and where would reveal his greatest secret to his underlings, unfortunately.
I thought the 1997 setting was done wonderfully. Not many people have cell phones, for instance, although a few do. It's also just after a retroviral drug was created, one that helped the gay rights movement recover. I thought Thomas's life as a closeted gay man was well done. There's an accepted level of homophobia in the police station and the town itself that isn't necessarily violent, but is pervasive and unwelcoming. And yet, Thomas does manage to meet other men he's interested in who are interested in him. He's not sexless, nor entirely alone even in a smaller town.
The setting and characters will keep me coming back to this series. But IDYLL THREATS did not fall down on the mystery angle. I kept the pages turning as the clues were uncovered and the picture started to come together. I also liked Thomas's torment over trying to get the work done right, to find the evidence that could replace his refusal to make a statement. He feels guilty (as he should) even though he's otherwise doing his best. I also liked how this element comes up again and again, as other people who saw Cecelia or other clues start to come forward despite their own reasons for staying silent.
IDYLL THREATS is a slim but encompassing novel. I really felt like I got to know Idyll and its residents. I'm looking forward to Gayle's next Thomas Lynch novel.