Friday, November 21, 2008

The case for pleasure and delight

Death of a Pirate King by Josh Lanyon
So I finished Death of a Pirate King by Josh Lanyon, and I was laying in bed this morning thinking, what do I even say about it? About the specific way in which I enjoyed it?

Background: This is book four of Adrien English Mysteries. Adrien is a fun, witty, smart owner of a mystery bookstore in LA. He has two romantic interests swirling around here, his significant other, sexy professor Guy, and Jake, the cop who broke his heart two years ago. It all starts when Adrien becomes involved in a Hollywood whodunit that Jake is investigating.

And old trick in advertising is, if you aren't sure how to think about the essence of a product, you say, what if I only had a billboard? What one or two giant words would I put up there? And the old examples are, like, if it's Crest you say Fights Cavities. If it's Volvo you say Safety.

So I was thinking about that - what if I took out a billboard on this book? And I was sort of torn between Pleasure & Delight, or else Deeply Satisfying.

The case for Pleasure & Delight
I would go with this billboard because Adrien as a narrator is always so funny and entertaining, and the plot is exciting. To me, that's a delightful combination in a first person book. Also, delight implies surprise, and there were a lot of good surprises here, some large, some small; the book was unpredictable to the end. Though I figured out the killer, it wasn't until quite late.

Pleasure is fitting because the world of the book is a sunny land of restaurants and bookstores and interesting, possibly dangerous people and a quirky family--highly pleasurable. Also, there were a number of pleasures associated with the romance.

Here, in an unexpected mid-book encounter between Jake and Adrien, they're in this hot long mashing kiss - at it for some time, and then after like a page or two, they come up for air:
"Hey," he said.

"Hey," I replied ruefully.

He rested one hand against my face, cupping my jaw. I tried to look away but he leaned in, licking my mouth and then nipping my lower lip, a delicate sting. I closed my eyes and he rubbed his face against mine, the rough velvet of his jaw rasping against my mouth and nose and eyelids.
Like, I love that they are kind of getting it on, and then they say Hey to each other. This is the kind of keenly observed detail that makes this narrative pleasant. Plus, this particular strange little exchange was so dead on to the motion of the story.

The case for Deeply Satisfying
There is so much delicious gravity and torment with this romantic triangle - you have the cop who desperately wishes he wasn't gay. You have insightful Guy who loves and understands Adrien. And Adrien wants to follow his heart, but wants a future with a real partner. Plus, secrets are coming to the surface around Jake and Adrien's past. So satisfying, all of it.

Another big thing in the book is Adrien's heart condition. It's almost like another character. I worried about him - not to an uncomfortable degree, but it always felt very real life, and I just loved that, and how it related to the plot.

I would also say deeply satisfying because that was my sense as I closed the book. Just this satisfied happy Ah.

So, two billboards. Or how about a rambling blog entry?
I think that's the thing with this series. Lanyon develops this sunny, fun surface, but he puts big serious things into motion underneath, and I think that is part of his genius. This is an excellent book. You maybe wouldn't want to start here, though it does stand alone. I'd start at The Hell You Say (book 3, which was my first) or go all the way to #1, Fatal Shadows.

More of me talking about Death of a Pirate King here, sort of my mid-book thoughts.

Other reviews (Anyone else? Let me know and I'll put it on here):
Sarah at Rain on the Roof
Nose in a book
Romance Junkies
Dear Author

In Renee's blog post on the series, she has a link to a picture of the mystery bookstore she always imagines for Adrien's bookstore.


lisabea said...

As much as "pleasure and delight" want to win...I have to go with "deeply satisfying".

And luminous, of course.


Kati said...

Damn it! I've GOT to pick up these books! Between you and Jen and LB, I've just got to.

Renee said...

OK, so I've now read the last 2 books as well. I think in terms of a satisfying ending, Death of a Pirate King is up the with Sugar Daddy for me.

I have to say, too, I squeed when the bookstore Vroman's in Pasadena, is mentioned in book 3 or 4. It's my favorite LA-area independent bookstore.

Now the trick will be waiting for the next book in the series. groan.

Great review!

Carolyn Jean said...

LB: Luminous!

Kati: The romance emphasis increases as the series goes. FYI.

Renee: Hey, that is a perfect comparison of endings.

Tracy said...

Deeply satisfying over pleasure and delight - but it's a tough call. I just loved the book and just had to sit with my eyes closed for a bit thinking on it when I was done. Just wonderful. So glad you liked it.

Carolyn Jean said...

Hey Tracy! Did you review this? I was trying to figure out if you did, because I knew you read it. Send a link if you did.

Tracy said...

Nope - I didn't think I could do it justice. I let the experts take care of that for me - and they did a fine job. :)

Sarah said...

CJ, this is a brilliant review. What you said about the pleasure is so true and yet not something I'd consciously thought about. My ideal day would be trawling about through bookstores in the sun, macking on a handsome man (presumably the one I am currently attached to hehe).

Wicked cool! AND, that kiss. Merow.

sula said...

fab description of it, cj. i'm a little over halfway through. please tell me it's all going to be ok. pleeeease.

lisabea said...

Heh. Sula it's fricken GRIPPING because of that connection to Adrien.

But we wouldn't want to spoil the ending for you....

naida said...

sounds good, great review :)
I like the excerpts you posted.