Idyll Fears is the new novel from Stephanie Gayle and it returns readers to the domain of Police Chief Thomas Lynch. That world – Idyll, Connecticut circa 1997 – is the perfect setting to explore the topics at the heart of Stephanie Gayle’s series.
When last readers left Thomas Lynch, he had just come out to his colleagues on the small town police force. As their superior, reactions were decidedly mixed and things have not gotten much better over the ensuing months. Readers know that attitudes toward homosexuality have changed drastically over the past two decades and this small town conservative setting serves to highlight that evolution, all while the citizen’s exposed intolerance exacerbates Thomas’ troubles.
The case at the center of Idyll Fears involves the disappearances of Cody Forrand – abducted twice in the span of a week. But Cody is not like other boys: he suffers from a rare medical condition that prevents him from feeling pain. With the winter temperatures dangerously cold, Thomas needs to find Cody quickly before something tragic happens. Since the holidays are quickly approaching and much of the police staff is out sick with the flu, all available resources must be utilized if there is to be any hope of success.
Stephanie Gayle excels at depicting the procedural side of small town police investigations. As each new thread is explored, new suspects emerge. Each new avenue reveals another secret – some related to the case at hand and others that are just collateral damage related to living in a small town community. With the workplace tension high, it is also nice to get small glimpses of what “downtime” looks like for professionals during such high stress situations.
Through it all, Thomas Lynch remains the constant. Readers fell in love with him in Idyll Threats, leaving little doubt that they will remain on his side during this new case. Never losing sight of the diversity at the core of her books, Stephanie Gayle includes a subplot focused on hate-motivated crimes around the Idyll township. Thomas, himself is even the intended victim in some of these incidents, which makes investigation awkward to say the least.
In both the main investigation and the subplot, Stephanie Gayle manages to avoid cliché and subverts the reader’s expectations in their subsequent resolutions. In the end, there is plenty of life left in the journey of Thomas Lynch and this is nothing but good news for readers.
With both Idyll Threats and Idyll Fears, Stephanie Gayle avoids the urge to become preachy or biased in her depictions of the small-minded citizens of Idyll. Even though 1997 seems like only yesterday, this is a historical series devoted to exploring society’s attitude about the “outsider” and how change evolved slowly, over time, through visibility, honesty, and empathy. Expand your world and take a moment to visit with Thomas Lynch.
Reminder: If you are going to be at Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto in October, Stephanie Gayle will be part of the panel I am moderating about currents in LGBTQ+ crime fiction. I do hope that you will join us.
Disclaimer: A copy of this title were provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.