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2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 25 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Book Review: Idyll Fears by Stephanie Gayle

This second-in-series not only did not disappoint, it surpassed my expectations – which almost never happens… A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to Thomas Lynch, 1990s era Idyll, Connecticut’s now openly-gay police chief (“the first in the state!” as the locals proclaim with a mixture of pride and distaste). The first book was really good – I thoroughly enjoyed the establishment of personalities, the teasing out of backstory, and of course the murder at the heart of it all. In this second installment, Gayle has outdone herself though, and the characters really came alive for me. Lynch is a great protagonist, a strong personality fighting against prejudice (internal and external, real and projected) in a way that rings true and feels genuine. He is surrounded by a supporting cast that is a great melange of personalities, secrets, fears, dreams, quirks, and hidden depths.

Then there’s the setting, and it’s here that I think Gayle does such a great job bringing her books alive. 1998 was not long ago – at least not in my mind – but Lynch’s world is in many ways light-years away from modern sensibilities in some regards, and unfortunately all too reminiscent of them in others.
Cell phones are not ubiquitous, nor is online activity. No one has GPS. The Idyll cops still smoke in their office. Crime has a different feel – more personal, less ideological and fanatical. Neighbors not only know one another, they watch each other – and not out of a sense of pure paranoia. Hate and fear and prejudice – of race, of sexuality – feel both subtle and blatant at the same time. It’s a world that is just that much removed from our own (twenty years is not even a generation, yet the technological and world shifts since then make it seem light years apart), and I find it (even when dark, depressing, or dreadful) somewhat comforting to fall back into it because it’s the world of my early adulthood (I was 25 in 1998) and a world that formed a lot of aspects of my personality.

But characters and setting alone don’t make a book – or at least not a series book. There also has to be some action, and this time the action is disturbing because it involves a child. A very sick child. A very sick child who doesn’t feel pain. And if those words don’t send your mind to some dark places, I don’t know what will. There’s kidnapping, arson, hate crime, unexplained death, a surprising amount of flirtation, and a lot of self-discovery going on in this book, and the blend of it all is spot-on perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed watching things unfold. Some of it I saw coming, some I did not – it’s a testament to Gayle’s storytelling skills that I enjoyed both aspects equally.

I have the third book on my shelf thanks to the publisher, and it’s review will be forthcoming as soon as it’s available commercially in the U.S. (September 4), so check back in a couple of weeks to see if Gayle can continue her unabashed winning streak – I strongly suspect she shall!

My review copy was generously provided by Seventh Street Books.

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