July 1, 2016 by kitmoss
I love Josh Lanyon’s work. It combines the excitement of a great thriller with a touch of humanity so tender that you can’t help but want the best for the lovers in his stories and novels. SNOWBALL IN HELL is no exception. Set during World War II but unusually at the Home Front, in Los Angeles, the two main characters are wounded veterans now returned, physically at least, to their lives and careers. A man’s body has turned up in the la Brea tarpits. Matt, a police lieutenant, is drawn to the reporter Doyle from the moment he sees him. Doyle, a troubled soul, clearly knows the victim, the younger son of a wealthy Old West collector. This son turns out to be a nasty bit of work, a blackmailer and all around heel whom just about everyone wanted dead, except for his doting father. As Matt pursues leads he keeps coming into contact with Doyle who, not wanting the fact that he is a homosexual coming to light during Matt’s investigation, is also trying to find the real killer. Matt discovers that Doyle is something he has been denying in himself, that he is drawn romantically and sexually to men. Can he see his way to making Doyle part of his life? Only if Doyle is not in fact the killer.
Just the setting of this novel made it interesting… you don’t read that often about men back from the war while it is still going on. Doyle is a victim not only of the war’s horrors but of his time when homosexual acts are shameful and illegal, but while he is near despair he is not without the capacity for love and hope. Matt is an unusually honest and self-reflective character for the typical hard-nosed cop. The seamier side of Los Angeles, including a park where men tryst, juxtaposed with the glamor of nightclubs and mansions was striking and valuable.
I have liked all of Lanyon’s books, but this one, I think, will be one of those that stick with me.