Friday, 22 June 2012
Boystown 4: A Time For Secrets by Marshall Thornton
This book follows on almost directly from book three. Nick Nowack, our PI hero, is employed by a man, Ronnie, who helped to save Nick and his lover (now ex-lover) Daniel when they were attacked in a gay bashing. Ronnie asks Nick to find the whereabouts of an old lover of his, Vernon. It seems like a simple case but actually turns out to be a huge, dangerous mess for Nick when he discovers the reasons why Ronnie wants to find Vernon. Nick is torn between avenging the deaths of three men, or staying out of a case which could get him killed.
One of the main plus points of this being a full length novel is that there is a balance between the case and Nick's personal life. In the other books the case seemed to take up most of the pages with Nick's relationship with Harker given little time to grow, but here we find out much more about Nick and Harker. It meant that Nick's feelings for Harker were also explored in greater depth making Nick seem much less cold-hearted than he may have appeared in earlier books. Nick is finally admitting that he loves Harker, and isn't coping too well over the fact that Harker has been diagnosed with GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) - something which has been signposted since book 2. Nick is trying to do his usual thing of pretending he doesn't care, and sleeping around whenever the chance arises. However, it's becoming clear to the reader that these trysts are becoming increasingly tawdry and unfulfilling for Nick, and I've liked the clever way that the author is showing this slight change in Nick, through comparing the opportunistic sex with the tender and loving kind found between Nick and Harker. We are introduced to a new character in the form of journalist, Christian, who gives Nick a sour taste of his own medicine when Christian attaches himself to Harker. Those scenes made me smile in a wry fashion, as even Nick can see the hypocrisy in his feelings about this.
As always the eighties setting is vividly realised, although this time less through description of setting and fashion and more through the attitudes shown in the characters. Politics and corruption in particular are highlighted in the book, especially police brutality, with many of the stumbling blocks that Nick faces being due to the actions and ignorance of those who profess to protect the innocent. It gave me a very different view of the 80's than I experienced and at times frustrated me as much as Nick.
The case itself was another plus point, with the longer format allowing things to unfold slowly. Like the previous books I was exhausted on Nick's behalf as he pounds the streets, looking for clues. The amount of leg work which had to be done then just to find someone seemed overwhelming in the face of today's technology when Googling a person will find more information in seconds than it took Nick to find in several days. I enjoyed watching Nick puzzle through things and also weigh up how much his conscience could allow him to continue with the case or not. Often Nick comes across as heartless, self-seeking and cynical, but here we see that he is also dogged and moral. It made me warm to him more than I have in previous stories.
One final thing I liked about this book is that we get to see Nick being vulnerable. There were several scenes where he allows his emotions to surface, for example talking to his friend Ross about Harker, or seeing his Dad for the first time in three years, that made him wholly human. His confusion about being a couple and doing couply things is also another point where he seems less cold as do his feelings for Harker, his loyalty and fear for the future. This development in Nick showed a side to him which is increasing my admiration for him as a character, and my admiration for the author who is slowly changing Nick through each subsequent book. Marvellous.
Overall, if you're a fan of the Boystown series then this is a must read. You could even start with this book if you've not read any of the previous books because the only continuity problem would be Nick's relationship with Harker which could be easily picked up. Be warned though, you'll want to pick up the rest of this series once you read this! As for me, Nick is fast becoming one of my favourite detective characters. The fact that we are seeing chinks in that tough, rough, cynical exterior only makes me like him all the more and I shall look forward to seeing more of him in the next book in the series. Until then, I highly recommend A Time For Secrets with a grade of Excellent.
Buy this book HERE.