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Los Angeles, 1943
Reporter Nathan Doyle had his reasons to want Phil Arlen dead, but when he sees the man’s body pulled from the La Brea tar pit, he knows he’ll be the prime suspect. He also knows that his life won’t stand up to intense police scrutiny, so he sets out to crack the case himself.
Lieutenant Matthew Spain’s official inquiries soon lead him to believe that Nathan knows more than he’s saying. But that’s not the only reason Matt takes notice of the handsome journalist. Matt’s been drawn to men before, but he must hide his true feelings—or risk his entire career.
As Nathan digs deeper, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay one step ahead of Matt Spain—and to deny his intense attraction to him. Nathan’s secrets may not include murder, but has his hunt put him right in the path of the real killer?(
I feel like such a fool for overlooking this one time and time again. Snowball in Hell is most certainly the darkest, and quite possibly, the most powerful work I have ever read from Mr Lanyon.
He styles this novella using all the qualities of noir, and honestly, I have never read anything more visually noir in my life! Talk about an atmosphere! All the elements of classic 1940’s film noir are here: Spain plays the ‘plainclothes policeman’, Doyle plays the ‘victim of circumstance’, a murder is the ‘crime’, ‘cynical attitudes’ and sexual motivations all play out in stylish black & white with smoky backdrops and strong characters haunted by long grey shadows.
Snowball in Hell really stands out among Lanyon’s other works for me not purely for the brilliant styling and darker characterisation that appeals to me on every level, but for the overall impact it had on me. I know it’s cliché to say I felt like I was watching a movie, but I really did. Lanyon always does that to me but here I felt it keenly – the only thing missing was a soundtrack. The dialog and the language of the era really authenticate the experience, and in all honesty, as much as the mood is dark and oppressive I felt thoroughly seduced but it.
The mystery is a great one, fraught with tension that spirals all the way through. Again the elements of noir come in to play as the investigation takes us into smoky piano bars and shady underworld type characters, each with secrets they need to protect. It’s compelling reading and the compulsion only intensifies when we really get to know Nathan Doyle, a man too broken and raw to recognise how close he is to his own destruction. Nathan’s instinct for self-preservation is all burned up along with inhibitions and common sense when he meets Lieutenant Spain. Spain is strong and steadfast but not without his own demons. The romance between Doyle and Spain is slow to build and often diluted with guilt and misgivings but when it snowballs … well, it’s not all loving hearts and roses, it’s more a bittersweet ‘black velvet kiss’ …dark and luxurious. Irresistible and forbidden. Delicious!
This is so well done, so authentic with great writing and a HFN romance that’s fraught with the social challenges of the era to come. Now I have to shake my head and say: tsk tsk Mr Lanyon, this book is 7 years old and still no sequel? If ever there was two characters that deserve to have their story told, it’s these two. It can’t be over; Doyle and Spain have too far to go for it to be over …