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by Stephanie Gayle
Seventh Street Books, September 2018
304 pages
ISBN: 1633884821

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

IDYLL HANDS is the third in the series of mysteries, set in 1999, featuring Thomas Lynch, a former New York City detective who is now the chief of police in a small town in Connecticut. The plotlines are revealed from the perspectives of two different characters, Chief Lynch and one of his staff, Officer Michael Finnegan. Finnegan, whose sister Susan mysteriously disappeared in 1972, has an understandable reaction when the body of a young woman is found in the woods. He has spent the last twenty-seven years trying to figure out what happened to his teenage sister, who walked out of the house one afternoon and was never seen again. Could this newly discovered body be his sister? We quickly learn that it is not his sister but a woman who disappeared in 1979.

Lynch, who misses the action of investigating a case, makes a deal with Officer Finnegan: he will take a fresh look at Susan Finnegan's 1972 disappearance, while Finnegan works the newer case.

Stephanie Gayle deftly switches between describing the action in 1999 and 1972, and going back and forth between the first person accounts of Lynch and Finnegan. She had introduced Thomas Lynch in 2015 in IDYLL THREATS. In the first book of the series, Lynch, who is gay, had not shared the information about his sexual orientation with his work-mates. In IDYLL HANDS, Lynch is out of the closet and still has to deal with homophobia.

This reviewer also wrote about IDYLL THREATS and I am happy to report that Gayle has really grown as a writer both in plot and character development. Thomas Lynch is a much more likable, sympathetic and complex character in the newer work, and the interplay among all the characters is handled much more successfully. There are some other wonderful characters that I look forward to following in other works in this series. There are well-constructed relationships described in IDYLL HANDS both romantic and non -- that effectively help us get a fuller picture of Lynch in particular and life for gay professionals at the close of the 20th century.

The action is well-described, and the tone of the novel fits with the content. My one quibble is how she handles the foreshadowing of technological advances that we take for granted in 2018, but are new and exciting in 1999, such as the development of the internet and cell phones.

This work, with the interplay of family, relationships, secrets and heartbreak, was a very satisfying read; it was impressive to see the growth exhibited by Stephanie Gayle. It was good enough to encourage me to purchase the second book in the series, IDYLL FEARS.

Phyllis Onstad has been a writer, editor, civil servant, teacher and voracious reader. She currently lives in the California wine country.

Reviewed by Phyllis Onstad, August 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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