Title: In the Pines
Author: Lydia Nyx
Length: 10,100 words
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Genre: m/m paranormal romance
Tyler Maxwell is a former New York cop now working a desk job in Alaska. But he hasn’t lost all of his cop instincts. After purchasing a gun as a gift despite the gun shop owner’s insistence that the weapon was cursed, Tyler starts doing some investigating into the gun’s sordid past. He turns up evidence of a string of unexplained suicides, all apparently committed with the very same gun.
At the same time, Tyler begins to have erotic dreams about the beautiful and mysterious Flynn. Thoughts of Flynn soon begin to intrude upon Tyler’s waking hours, though, and it becomes clear that Flynn wants more from Tyler than just his body. He has a favor to ask. Now, Tyler has to finally unravel the mystery of the gun before he becomes its next victim.
I’m not wholly keen on stories involving gun play, but this story, originally from the Weight of a Gun anthology, seemed to take a different slant on things. It tells of Tyler who, after being shot in the leg, has moved from an active life as a cop in NYC to Anchorage where he has a desk job. He’s in a bit of a low place because his job isn’t as fulfilling as his previous one, and he’s fast slipping into middle age thanks to the long recovery. He buys a gun at a local store and is intrigued when he discovers that it has a sinister history. At the same time he starts having very erotic and evocative dreams.
I’ve always found this author to write intelligently with a style that appeals to me as a reader and this book was no exception. The story drew me in quickly with its mix of eroticism and mystery and I felt rather sorry for Tyler, despite the fact that he was pretty downbeat all the time. He’s teetering on the verge of depression and I thought his mixture of determination to make the best of things mixed with a low body/self image fit well with a man who used to be strong and attractive but has now lost both of those. It then made sense to me that he would be seduced by these dreams, by the notion that he could still be found attractive by a sexy young man. Without this background he could have come across as vain and foolish, but instead there’s a pathos in the situation which made me like Tyler more.
The paranormal aspect of the story worked at first for me, but I found the way that it all wrapped up with the mystery plot at the end, just a little bit unsatisfying. It was rather suddenly done. The end to the story is not a definite HEA, but it’s also not unhappy either. Again, I was a little frustrated by this and although I was warned that the end wasn’t conventional, and also I couldn’t see how else things could have worked out, I was left feeling a little sad and deflated. Perhaps my general skepticism regarding ghost stories also influenced my feelings at the end too, so I can accept that other readers may not have similar feelings to me about how it all panned out.
Overall, this was an interesting and well written story with the gun as a focus for the paranormal rather than it being used as gun play. I enjoyed reading In the Pines, despite my reservations about the ending, and would recommend it.