Idyll Threats
Stephane Gayle
(Seventh Street Books)
Detective Lynch has just dumped his job working the streets of New York City. He's been hired on as the police chief for the village of Idyll CT. He leaves the city with bitter memories of his partner and fellow cop Rick who was "shot dead by a dealer."

We learn over the course of this narrative that Rick also (1) had been Thomas Lynch's lover and (2) had gotten hooked on junk. Being gay and being a cop, we soon learn, might preferably be considered as oxymoron.

This outpost of a police-station in Idyll is far from idyllic as Lynch, unwilling to come out, gets to listen to all the cop anti-gay banter, lets us know that it's going to be heavy going even in this post-Stonewall world.

Lynch's lust does, at times, get away with him. He shows himself to be just like the rest of us who may or may not be in uniform when he stops a speeder and, as he is giving him a ticket,

    The crescent moon turned his gray hair silver . . . Blue eyes. I've always been a sucker for blue eyes.

As he is being written up, old blue eyes asks him if he sees a lot of "action" in Idyl, and when he then says, "You want to go somewhere?" that's all she wrote.

An empty shack just on the outskirts of town. "He gripped my shirt and tugged me down so my face was level with his. I stiffened all over." No Mickey Spillane this, and Idyll CT, we will learn, might not be the best place for the town's chief of police to get involved in gay trysts, especially when another temporary denizen of that hut is soon to be murdered. Her male partner may have seen too much while Lynch was busy banging away.

§   §   §

I almost gave up on Idyll Threats a third of the way through the book. Once our sweet young Cecilia North gets murdered at a local golf course nearby, we sense that Lynch is about as good at solving murders as he is picking up and ticketing speeders. The citizens in town are fed up with the unresolved case; they want action; they want a suspect. And the readers, at least this one, yearn for something too, rather than overdoses of guilt and God-knows-I-shouldn't-have-done-that.

What with mourning his dead lover and lurking about in his new but ever-present closet (with all the dissembling that it involves), our idyll is quickly turning into a bummer.

I just about turned in my reviewer's badge on page 109 when our mournful, solipsistic chief gets himself in a hot shower and starts meditating on one of the other muscle-bound bulls downtown and "My cock was up for some exercise." We are given the full Philip Roth treatment in the john (not with a john unfortunately). The receptacle, in this case, is not an overhead light-bulb but the shower's faucet, replete with "drops white and viscous, like glue." Gork.

I don't usually pick up detective novels for lessons on onanism and I found myself getting as depressed with the inaction as our Gloomy Gus here. Fortunately, I was able to take a brief recess with my faithful bottle of Barefoot Pinot Grigio (well chilled) and Ricardo's dynamite Seven Bone ragoût with a side of spinach fried in garlic yum and soon enough I was ready to tackle Idyll Threats again. With or without all this gummy stuff hanging about on the bathroom fixtures.

Fortunately, about the same time author Gayle lightens up, the fellow cops begin to decide that Lynch is a regular guy, and clues quickly turn up at the nearby golf course and lake (shoe prints, guns, incriminating detritus). As we get close to nabbing the villain, Lynch finally finally gets laid by the local carpenter named Shannon, whose "chest was wide, barrel-shaped, and tan. His skin was smooth and fatty . . . He smelled like sweat and cotton and man."

I guess when you are living in outback Connecticut a little extra sweat and "fatty" doesn't necessarily rub you the wrong way. Once we have gotten rid of all these messy juices, Lynch becomes so blissed out that, on the way home through the woods, he runs smack-dab into a deer with the squad car and has to put it out of its misery with his .40m Glock, making excuses all the while to the bean-counters back at the station so they can deduct the damage from his salary.

No matter: all is resolved in the end. The murderer gets sent up for life, Lynch becomes the town hero, and he even has a chance to confess to a sympathetic friend.

    "And you never told your team?"

    "I didn't want to give them an excuse to recreate the Stonewall riots," I said.

    "They're that bad?"

    Here was the sympathy I'd been denied. By isolating myself.

    "They're no worse than your average cops."

    He didn't say anything.

§   §   §

Unlike the gritty times of Marlowe and the Continental Op, this new generation of mystery writers manages to stuff in not only blood and mayhem and shady characters and not-so-heroic heroes but also a gaggle of personality disorders right out of DSM-5. I guess if you can set up your typical Joe Blow detective as a haunted, guilt-ridden character, the reader should be willing to live with it, but Idyll Threats managed to remind me too much of those glum Pre-Liberation Days.

Publishing this might be a public service for those who weren't around fifty years ago to feel the unease of living in a society ranged (and raged) against us. Thus, Idyll Threats may just have be sent out to remind us that the world still is not all that giddy-gay and that the prejudice is still sitting out there in a blue uniform . . . and that these blues ain't going to be floating away in a colorful balloon any time soon.

--- A. W. Allworthy
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