Book Reviews

Secret at Skull House (Secrets and Scrabble 2) by Josh Lanyon at JustJoshin Publishing

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Reviewed by ParisDude on 11-May-2020

Book Blurb

Ellery Page is back--and in hot water again!

Unlike everyone else in Pirate's Cove, Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village's only mystery bookstore, is anything but thrilled when famed horror author Brandon Abbott announces he's purchased legendary Skull House and plans to live there permanently.

Ellery and Brandon have history. Their relationship ended badly and the last thing Ellery wants is a chance to patch things up--especially when his relationship with Police Chief Jack Carson is just getting interesting. But then, maybe Brandon isn't all that interested in getting back together either, because he seems a lot more interested in asking questions about the bloodstained past of his new home than discussing a possible future with Ellery. What is Brandon really up to?

Ellery will have to unscramble that particular puzzle post haste. Because after his former flame disappears following their loud and public argument, Ellery seems to be Police Chief Carson's first--and only--suspect.

***This story contains no on-screen sex or violence.

Book Review

I may be repeating myself, but put the name Josh Lanyon on a book cover, and I’ll read the book, even if it turns out to be a mislabelled edition of the Yellow Pages. So, no surprise, I asked (begged, beseeched, implored) to be allowed to read and review the second book of the ‘Secrets and Scrabble’ series, which is as of now becoming one of my favorite cozy murder mystery series, right up there with anything by good ole Agatha Christie or the entire ‘Amelia Peabody’ series by the late Elizabeth Peters.


Ellery Page is at it again. He has just been cleared of any suspicion of murder, life is back to normal: his mystery bookstore still not making much money, his fledgling relationship with Police Chief Jack Carson (if one wants to use so grand a word for their friendship) still not making much headway but looking promising, and Ellery feeling at home in Pirate’s Cove at last. That is, until his ex buys Skull House and makes a surprising appearance in the village. No, not The Creepy Cheater Todd, but The Creepy Creep Brandon Abbott. The man before Todd, a guy whom Ellery has not seen for seven years and who has become a famous and well-off writer of paranormal novels in the meantime. Brandon has not changed a bit, still as irritatingly egocentric and still as oblivious to the fact that some things he does or says might hurt other people. Well, Brandon will have a nasty, even deathly surprise. In fact he has bought Skull House because it has been the place where two murders have taken place, the last of which remains unresolved and has happened only some twenty years before. With eager carelessness Brandon digs into that hushed-up past in order to find the plot for his new and upcoming book… and, unsurprisingly for me and Ellery, he ends up as dead as those murder victims before long.


No accident, but foul play, such is the police’s verdict. To Ellery’s mighty dismay, Detective Lansing of the Pirate’s Cove police force, to whom the investigations are handed over, immediately suspects him of all people. Sigh—Ellery is the main suspect again. Worse, Jack Carson, supposed to be his friend, does nothing to assist him. All right, for reasons unknown, Brandon has made Ellery the sole heir of his riches and estates, but Ellery didn’t know that. He reckons there is only one solution: he needs to investigate the murder himself and stir up the muddy past no one seems willing to even mention in the village. He should have known from last time that this is always a dangerous endeavor, because someone apparently doesn’t shy away from killing people in order to leave an unresolved cold case exactly that: unresolved.


Even though I’m currently haunted by a nasty, drug-resistent migraine every evening, I finished Lanyon’s newest book in two after-work readings. What does that tell anyone about the book? Oh, not that one needs to suffer from a bout of migraine to enjoy it; quite the contrary: it means that even with an aching head and squinting eyes, I simply couldn’t put it down. Ellery is just as quirkily endearing and endearingly quirky as in the first book. He trudges forward, no matter the cost (often to himself), no matter the hindrances and contrary circumstances. What he wants is the truth, mainly to rid himself of any suspicions, but also because he is someone who likes honesty. He has no mean bone in his body, no mean thought in his head, even if he can be bitchy from time to time. He is loyal and trusting, which makes him an easy prey for those around him who are not as noble.


Jack is another matter altogether, a figurehead of Josh Lanyon’s favorite trope of the lonesome, manly fighter. He does have a softness, a tenderness for Ellery, which makes me like him just the same. The secondary characters are, true to Lanyon’s skilled imagination and writing, eccentric and funny. As always, Josh Lanyon manages to throw a whole, little fictional world onto her vellum with some sketchy, yet to-the-point descriptions. She never forgets to add her trademark witty dialogs either, which constitute the salt and spices of her books. I will not gush—again—about her perfect pacing, her clever plot, her ability to create believable, almost palpable athmosphere (I always gush about her books, and I’m afraid she might get used to it, LOL). Anyway, I’m really looking forward to the next installment of this nice and easy-going series.





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Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novel, 208 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 28-April-2020
Price $3.80 ebook
Buy Link