Monday, 9 July 2012

Boystown 3 by Marshall Thornton

Private Investigator Nick Nowak is back in two novella length mysteries set in Chicago during the early 1980s. 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.

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

For me, Marshall Thornton rocks the house. His voice is so real, and well in keeping with the time the book is set, that I felt like I was right there—right there! Nick is a man who enjoys sex and isn’t afraid to say so, and isn’t afraid to act on his feelings either. If sex is on offer, he’ll take it, providing he feels the urge. But it isn’t just about sex. The brilliant way in which Thornton executes his plots had me nodding, saying to myself, “Damn, this author can write!”

Excerpt below so you can see a little of what you’ll be getting.


Everyone lies. They lie to the people they love; they lie to themselves. Once you admit it, it’s not such a hard thing to live with. What is hard to live with is how far people will go to keep their lies alive. 

Reverend Edward Pepper was a fussy little man. He sat uncomfortably in the guest chair across from my desk, looking around my office as though he wanted to take a rag to it and wipe up all the dust. Of course, I wouldn’t allow that. I was fond of the dust. 

He was dressed in a black shirt with a clerical collar. Over that, he wore a short woolen jacket that was now making him sweat. It was May and the weather was hot one day, cold the next. That day had begun cold and quickly heated up. I’d asked if he wanted to hang the coat on the hook behind my door but he’d declined. He was a small man, wiry and tight. He seemed on the verge of shaking. With his white blond hair and his anxious blood-shot eyes he reminded me of a rabbit. A pretty rabbit, maybe, but a rabbit all the same. Even his nose was pink. He’d been in my office for ten minutes and I hadn’t been able to find out why he was there.

“How did you find me, Reverend Pepper?” I asked.

“We have a choir. They’re good. Quite good. They perform every Sunday morning on The Towering Hour. Have you seen it?”

“The Towering Hour? No, I generally sleep in on Sunday mornings.”

“Oh. Of course,” he said. He’d already identified me as a heathen. I hoped he wouldn’t try to change that. I liked being a heathen.

He hadn’t answered my question, so I asked it in a different way. “Did someone in the choir recommend me?”

“Yes, I mean, no. I mean they called around until they found someone who could recommend some like you.”

“Someone like me?” I suspected I knew what he meant but I wanted him to say it. “Why were you looking for someone like me?”

“Gregory was shot, you see. Gregory Dane. Outside his apartment building. About a month ago.” I kept an expectant look on my face, hoping he’d give me more details. It worked. He went on, “Gregory had the most beautiful voice. When he sang it was like listening to an angel. Everyone liked him. We can’t figure out why--”

“I still don’t understand why you came to me.”

“You’re uniquely qualified to find Gregory’s killer.”

I took pity on him finally and guessed, “Gregory was gay.”

“Yes,” he said, sitting back in his chair as though relieved he wasn’t going to have to use the word himself. 

“And you think something about Gregory’s being gay is what got him killed?”

“It must have.”

There was something about the good Reverend I didn’t like. It might have been his nervous little rabbit ways. Or, his unwillingness to come out and say what he meant. Or, his assumption that being gay got Gregory Dane killed, I don’t know. But I didn’t like him so I said something that was a little on the untruthful side, “I’m sure the Chicago police can handle the case.”

“I don’t think so,” the Reverend said. “They’re already making mistakes.”

“Yeah? What mistakes have they made?” I asked.

“They found a gun in a trash bin about three blocks from where Gregory lived. They say it’s the gun that killed him. The gun is registered to me.”

“Gregory was killed with a gun you own?”

“No, that’s not what I said. It’s not what I said at all.” 

It certainly sounded like what he’d said. 

“You see what I mean?” he went on. “The police aren’t doing a good job.”

“I’m afraid, I don’t see,” I said honestly.

“I’ve never owned a gun in my life.”

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