I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging. In the online world, I’ve been perennially behind the curve. Late to Twitter, later to Facebook, very, very late to Goodreads. But even I have to admit it is no longer 2008 (oh the heady days of the blogoverse back then!) I stopped writing my old regular blog over a year ago now, and at the same time I reduced the number of blogs I followed. The recent demise of Google Reader has reduced this further – now I have to remember to check my blogroll. And it’s so much easier to visit collective places, to skim and mingle. But so much less satisfying.
So, given that this is my new normal why would I go to the bother of writing a review-y post?
Because, I must.
I am a passionate reader, my friends. I am an evangelist. When I am moved, I must speak. The last time this happened was when I read Captive Prince. And again now, with Josh Lanyon’s new novel, The Haunted Heart (Winter).
Where to start?
Let’s start with the general, and move to the particular.
The general is this: I adore the way Josh Lanyon writes. It’s just beautiful. I hate to find myself using words like ‘restrained’ and ‘understated’ when I talk about why he is such a good writer. It worries me that it sounds tepid, because I feel anything but tepid when I read his spare prose. I’m blown away by it. The power of clear, concise prose. The patient, masterly parsing out of story and character. All of these skills are on show here.
The particular, then.
I’m not going to summarise the plot – suffice to say that this is both a ghost story and the beginning of a romance between two wonderful characters, Flynn and Kirk. Flynn is young, wry and funny, and grieving over his lover’s death a year before. Kirk is older, somewhat grim and has a trauma in his past. Both characters are appealing in very different ways, both mysterious and intriguing.
Lanyon uses Flynn single POV to great effect, delivering not only a tantalising picture of the surly Kirk through Flynn’s eyes (I came to the end of the novel eager to learn more of him) but also through a patient and masterly revelation of Flynn’s own character. Oh, and this is so beautifully done. I refuse to be spoilery, but I can say this: Flynn’s light, somewhat humorous voice is clever distraction from a significant underlying truth that emerges close to the end. I was genuinely shocked by that reveal – my heart beat faster and my gut turned over. It was a visceral moment.
As well as Flynn and Kirk’s interaction, there’s a highly satisfying ghost story, one that had the hair standing up on the back of my neck (oh, the part where Flynn climbs in the window!). But it’s not merely a well written ghost story. It’s a fully integrated part of the bigger character arc, fully part of discovering the truth of Flynn, fully part of the growing relationship (from strangers, to friends, to more) between Flynn and Kirk.
And as if that was not enough, there’s the seasonal thing. We have a winter setting here - in every sense. A wintry landscape, and a winter of the soul. Bareness and death. Lanyon introduces, close to the end of the book, a sort of deadline, broadly a year ahead. So now I have that milestone in my mind. And since this is The Haunted Heart (Winter), I’m guessing we have Spring, Summer and Autumn (or rather Fall) to come. I certainly hope so, because I’m looking forward to a lot more of Flynn and Kirk.