Review by E. Kirshe
In Idyll Hands, police investigate two unrelated cold cases involving missing girls. Set in 1999, a body is found in the woods of Idyll, Connecticut. The murder is thought to be connected to a cold case from years earlier. Idyll Chief of Police Thomas Lynch agrees to put part-time cop Michael Finnegan on the case– if he allows the bored Lynch to look into the disappearance of Finnegan’s sister, missing since 1972.
The book is something of a slow burn. Stephanie Gayle really makes the reader appreciate the work that goes into solving a crime with little information- especially in a 1999 police station where typewriters are still used. Tracking down witnesses who haven’t thought about these crimes in decades and suspects who may no longer be recognizable makes for some engaging long-form police work.
The first person narration switches between Lynch’s and Finnegan’s perspectives which gives a fresh angle for each case. The more personal feelings of Finnegan who is working on the new case and thinking of his missing sister is in contrast to Lynch’s slightly more hard-cop-on-the-job voice (although both have that old-school movie cop quality).
Each detective brings something to the table as the cases become more concrete, Lynch was once a homicide detective and can investigate Finnegan’s sister’s case in a way a family member can’t. And though he’s not exactly on great terms with his own people (three ex-wives kids he doesn’t see, and parents and siblings he sees only on holidays) Finnegan has some idea of what the family of this newly murdered girl are going through. The detectives work their cases like they’re on the hunt and the pace picks up as they close in on answers.
It isn’t necessary to have read previous Thomas Lynch books, it’s easy to follow and background is given. Gayle brings the quaint town of Idyll to life, where prior to the body, the current big crime is smelly oyster shells being left along a neighborhood street, against the backdrop of these two grim cases. Idyll Hands is also peppered with Lynch’s romantic foibles with his boyfriend as well as his family relationships, and worries over the station softball game. These things make the book an almost light (it’s still about murdered girls and grieving families, emotional scenes which Gayle writes touchingly) read compared to grittier or bloodier crime novels.
The background characters provide some humor and local color as do the station’s worries over impending Y2K doom (it’s 1999). Lynch’s subordinates working to respect if not understand their openly gay boss give this book the personal touches every procedural needs. Fans of the crime genre should save this book for a rainy day.
Idyll Hands was released Sept. 4th 2018 from Seventh Street Books
The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.