Returning home unexpectedly after being dumped by a man that he met online whom he thought was his forever love, our shy librarian Perry Foster was in no mood for what awaited him in his room, a body in his tub. The dead man disappeared just as quickly when Perry rushed downstairs to get help, and no one believed his story. Since there was no body the Police think he's either a nutcase or drunk. But mild mannered, asthmatic Perry was determined to prove the doubters wrong and find the body as well as the perpetrator of this dastardly deed. He found an ally in an unlikely person, Nick Reno, a former Navy SEAL who, like everyone else, had difficulty believing Perry's story, at first.
The first thing that struck me about this book was its atmosphere. It reminded me of a 1940s film noir with all of the elements that a film buff would expect of the era and the genre - dark, mysterious, shadows everywhere with dubious characters that are sometimes ominous and threatening. The house where everyone lived was the former mansion of a Hollywood celebrity and her husband decades ago, now it is reduced to being a seedy boarding house with a big secret but also poor lighting, bad heating and ventilation, and the landlady from hell. The story is full of quirky characters down on their luck (why else would someone live in a boarding house) all of whom have muddy pasts, their own secrets and possible motives to commit a murder or two. Inside the house where the temperature was almost as frigid as the outdoors, this friendly mob try to stay warm and remain alive as other motives emerge that might tempt their neighbours to commit more dastardly crimes. Greed is such a compelling motivation.
Perry's and Nick's relationship was unique and at times one sided. Nick was moving to another state in a couple of weeks and he did not want to give Perry any hope of a possible future for them, but Perry, the little charmer, had his own plans and I loved the way his character became dominant and manipulative at times and Nick could only go along for the ride. Nick was quite willing to help with the murder investigation but that was as far as he was prepared to go.
Whenever I read a Josh Lanyon murder mystery I pay attention because I want to solve the crime before the end of the book. This author always introduces many characters in his mysteries, any one of whom could be the killer, and false clues abound as he tries to confound his readers and outwit them as they encounter many phony trails that lead nowhere. Usually I'm pretty good at solving mysteries having done so for decades in books, but this time I have to admit that I was almost stumped as I got closer to the end of the story, with few suspects left, when I eventually solved the crime. I could tell you whodunit but I would have to kill you. If possible it is my humble opinion that the author is getting better at constructing his mysteries, and he sucks the readers in by letting them think they have the perpetrator nailed, before he makes fools of us all yet again.
What did I love best about The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks? Always the characters which is where Josh Lanyon excels and he seems to outdo himself with every new story. Perry reminded me of Clark Kent with his mild mannered persona that's smart, clever and stubborn and he seemed to have certain similarities to another famous amateur sleuth in Mr. Lanyon's books, but when he's in full Superman mode he's totally unstoppable. Nick Reno who is his foil in this story and ultimately his love interest, is no match for Perry intellectually or in street smarts, even though he is physically stronger and has the usual attributes of a former Navy SEAL - brave, intrepid and great investigative skills
This book proves once again what a master craftsman this author is in character and plot development. None of the characters was "over the top" although each one was quite distinctive; the flow of the story was beautifully done as the tension mounted and the personalities morphed before my eyes when the stress became too much for their fragile psyches. Reading a murder mystery is always a journey for me rather than a destination and The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks provided a wonderfully crafted map to the final goal of solving the crime. I think readers will find that the best part of this book is not the satisfaction of unraveling the clues and identifying the perpetrator (if you do get there) but the wonderful prose of this skillful and talented author who has given me hours of enjoyment as I journey through his world.
The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks is definitely a 'keeper" and I highly recommend it, even if you're not a fan of murder mysteries.