The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks by Josh Lanyon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In Lanyon’s latest offering, he pairs a slight, innocent Perry with world weary ex-military Nick in a setting reminiscent of classic Hammett and Agatha Christie mysteries. In isolated Vermont, a crumbling, spooky mansion has an unusual group of tenants matching its equally unusual and varied history. By turns, this novel is suspenseful, gripping and subtle.
Lanyon’s strengths are seen quite clearly in parts of the novel, expertly weaving a complex tale by doling out small bits of information throughout the entire story. Nothing is up front or blatantly spelled out, whether it pertains to the characters, the mystery or even the house itself, which definitely is a character of its own.
Unfortunately, it felt as though the love of film noir and mystery took over slightly in places. It was a well-written mystery creating an atmosphere right at the start that held to the very end. The mansion became it’s own character with its presence and past, adding an integral component to the lives of it’s inhabitants. There are a lot of secondary characters introduced, which is important to the plot of mystery. However, they initially flitted in and out of scenes so quickly, they had a tendency to blend together.
Perry and Nick meet with an immediate connection. Perry may be young, asthmatic, somewhat naive and sheltered, but has a core of strength and intelligence, which prevents him from being a “damsel in distress”. He has an outwardly fragile appearance causing a gruff Nick to unwittingly want to protect him. Nick is older, more experienced and somewhat baffled by his reaction to Perry and need to ensure that nothing happens to him. It’s Nick’s need to protect combined with Perry’s desire to solve the mystery, which lead to an interesting partnership.
The story paces itself well, with the caveat that the beginning seemed slightly rushed with a lot of characters dancing in and out of scenes, but thankfully the careful doling out of information kept this from being overwhelming. Furthermore, each of these characters develops their own identity little by little as the mystery deepens, allowing the plot to twist and turn where at points, everyone is a suspect and no one’s motives are pure.
Lanyon clearly loves noir and classic detective novels, as evidenced by the references littered within the pages. If you’re not familiar with these, they add to the atmosphere but are not essential to understanding the characters or the mystery. Clues are subtly offered so the murder-mystery resolution is guessable but cleverly done so as not to be obvious and clear cut.
Fans of Lanyon’s work will enjoy this new mystery and be left asking for more. When don’t fans want more, more, more? Be sure to give these characters their due attention and while some parallels may be made to previous work of Lanyon’s, comparisons which can cause some left wanting, this story has a charm and intrigue all of it’s own that will keep you reading and guessing.