Oct 6, 2013

[Books] Greg Honey

My first venture with a book from Bold Strokes Books was a little less than ideal, mainly because I wasn't quite prepared for just how explicit of an erotica a Zavo book could be. But since they're fairly active in the ebook review market, I can't help but come across more of their books in my search for new things to read.

Thanks to NetGalley, this time around I picked up a copy of Greg Honey, which is the first in a new series of gay detective novels. And I do appreciate a good mystery but I've yet to find a writer who has perfectly balanced the elements of making such novels still clearly gay without becoming overly distracting from the mystery side to things. But this novel shows some surprising promise given how it all came together.

I think I liked the fact that Greg Honey himself, who is our protagonist, is a pretty swell character. He's earnest and means well but is far from a master sleuth just yet. Why do so many gay men seem to think that starting a detective agency is a smart idea anyway?


Synopsis: Greg Honey is a gay detective novel written by Russ Gregory. This is not Gregory's first book - he had already garnered attention with his debut novel, Blue.

Greg Honey runs an independent detective agency. Although he's a member of the illustrious Honey clan, his mother denies him the family wealth given his sexuality and his unusual occupation. Thus he struggles to make ends meet and hoping to find more business around Austin, Texas. When he's not investigating cases, he's more than likely with his best friend Willa, who talks a mile a minute and has a propensity for handguns. Or he might be pining over Matt, who is a rather dreamy guy who is currently playing Mark in a local staging of Rent.

But a few cases of interest do start coming in, thus giving the agency a bit more hope. First he's asked to track down the missing brother of Russ Button, one of the most flamboyant queens in Austin. Another case involves him trying to verify the insurance claim for another friend. But while all this is going on, he also has to fend off his mother's efforts to fix him up with some rich socialite and the fact that some stalker has started to leave him threatening messages all over the place.

The book takes on a rather light comical tone that doesn't feel too forced or in bad taste. I've always found comedy of any form to be rather difficult to capture in writing, but Gregory certainly does well in this department. And maybe that's because on the whole his character conversations feel nicely natural and free-flowing as opposed to forced and mechanical. And that drives a lot of the story forward.

Greg Honey as a character embraces a lot of the tropes that we've seen in many detective stories, including the struggle to make ends meet and the on-going personal monologue as he goes through his cases. But at the same time he has some quirks like the fact that he does not have a car (in Austin!) despite his fabulously wealthy family plus he has an aversion to guns despite the inherent danger in his line of work. This certainly adds to the complexity of the story.

His best friend Willa probably accounts for more than 60% of the dialog in the book (or probably more). I know Gregory wanted to perfectly convey just how crazy talkative she gets but at times it did feel just a little excessive. Plus there's the fact that Honey is more than willing to bring her along during his various investigations despite the potential dangers. Still, she's an enjoyable character and drives a lot of the humor in this book and so I'm not complaining about too much Willa just yet.

The overall story was decent enough with the classic trope of the various cases somehow coming together in the end. Some connections were interesting and made a lot of sense while others felt forced and without any true foreshadowing. Greg and Willa are clearly the most developed characters while others like his love interest Matt were horribly one-dimensional. But given the rather large cast of characters involved, I suppose you can't have it all, especially with Willa yammering throughout most of the book.

I really enjoyed Greg Honey - it was a nice lighter experience compared to the few other gay detective stories that I've read. The circumstances didn't feel too strange nor "too gay" in a forced narrative sense, if you get my drift. It just flowed well and thus I'm happy to rate the book as 4 pranks between Willa and her rival Lola out of a possible 5.


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