Cover Image: Secret at Skull House: An M/M Cozy Mystery

Secret at Skull House: An M/M Cozy Mystery

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Member Reviews

The second book in the Secrets and Scrabble series is just as charming and fun as the first: the characters, community and setting are a wonderful backdrop to the unfolding mystery. As always, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next with Ellery!
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This was my first M/M cozy mystery and it was a treat. As expected this was a quick, one sitting read where you will walk away entertained.
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I really enjoyed this book. I had not read the first and was a bit worried that I would not fully understand this one. But it was no problem as it did explain what had happened in the first book. 

The characters were fun and the mystery was interesting. I did not guess the murderer at all! I will definitely read more in this series in the future.
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I adored this 2nd Cozy Mystery set in Pirate’s 🏴‍☠️ Cove! ❤️❤️

This one solved a cold case, a new case and stopped a possible murder 😱

Jack & Ellory get closer 😍

The townsfolk still gossip. 

What’s not to love in this murderous little town?
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A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

I have said this before and it's worth repeating - Josh Lanyon is a TREASURE!  I am like the superist of super fans for JL and I am not ashamed! :D This is an <i>adorable</i> story and I am excited to read more!

Ellery is back! And once again murder is afoot.  Poor Ellery.  How does he end up in these situations? His life before moving to Pirate's Cove was clearly more peaceful and well, less filled with dead bodies.  This time though the victim is none other than his ex, Brandon, who was not a likeable guy but didn't deserve to be murdered. Police Chief Jack, who must be rethinking his choice of places to live because this was not what he signed up for in a supposedly small/quiet island town, is trying to keep Ellery from being also murdered and keep him from being arrested for a crime he didn't commit.

This is such a cute story and Watson! OMG, I LOVE Watson!  Such a sweet puppy.  Ellery, encouraged by Nora and the rest of the town sleuths, tries to find the real murderer and unfortunately, finds him, lol.  There is a decades old murder behind all of this one person desperately wants to keep the past in the past and isn't afraid to kill to keep it there.

The romance between Ellery and Jack broke my heart. I was really upset with Jack for how he treated Ellery and thought Ellery forgave Jack a little too quick, but what can you do?  Ellery is a kind person and isn't able  to hold a grudge against Jack when his reasons behind everything he did had logical sense behind them.  I am rooting for these guys!  And really they are of course the reason why I can't wait for the next book.

This is a slooooow romance, on purpose, and I am loving every second of it.  They are taking things slow, not letting immediate feelings drive their actions and I like this.  I do recommend this and please note this should not be read as a standalone.  Technically you could because the mystery is not related, but the character backstories are all intertwined so you'd miss a lot.

5 stars because!
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SECRET AT SKULL HOUSE is book two in the Secrets and Scrabble series by Josh Lanyon. I have been looking forward to this series because I’ve really enjoyed the Adrien English series in the past. Although this one doesn’t quite have the same vibe as my favorite series, it does have a lot of interesting characters.

In this particular story, Ellery’s ex, Brandon, is one of the main characters. I always get a little excited whenever an ex is involved in the storyline, especially when Josh Lanyon does it. You just know that there’s going to be something juicy going on. Needless to say, I really liked this storyline.

However, I did feel like the beginning of the story dragged a bit. It took a while to get me into the story, which is quite different for me. Normally, Lanyon can grip me within just a few pages, so I’m not really sure how I feel about this book. I liked it, but it’s probably not my favorite. I do appreciate the details that the author put into this book though and I think readers will enjoy it, especially if they are big Ellery fans.
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Once more we return to Pirate's Cove where we follow reluctant amateur sleuth <b>Ellery</b> (best character name, seriously) who can't help, like John McClane, but ask himself— "How does the same shit happen to the same guy twice?"

The stakes are slightly higher than last time because a new detective is on the case and he doesn't seem eager to seek truth rather than throwing out accusations willy nilly. As if Ellery's problems aren't enough, local tabloid editor <s>Rita Skeeter</s> Sue Lewis has reignited her vendetta against Ellery because she appears to imagine that there's a contest between them for Police Chief Jack Carson's affections. It was all I could do not to shake her and yell at her with an amplified megaphone <I>HE'S NOT THAT INTO YOU</I>. And in any case, if she thinks writing trash about the person Carson may like is the best way to make him re-like (if he ever did) her, then she is quite plainly, stupid. 

Of course that is not the last of Ellery's conflicts. There is a secret on the cove. We learn more about its origins, how it was created by the founding pirates, how there are tunnels. But we also learn that while the townsfolk are eager to gossip and gush about the history of the island, they clam up when it comes to Skull House. 

Ellery confronts his almost outsider status but every time he tries to find out about whatever tragedies occurred at Skull House, he gets ominous warnings. Sometimes even threats. Just what is this secret at Skull House? And why is Ellery so certain that this latest murder he is accused of has everything to do with that decades old murder?

This book was just as charming as the first one. The way Lanyon makes the cove's residents interact with each other tells us so much. As economical as Lanyon is with the dialog and descriptions, the story is still immersive, evocative, suspenseful. Of course there isn't any real sense of peril because it's a cozy but that's covered because once more, I think this book is subliminal advertising for Lanyon's other books. This time I was reminded of my personal favourite [book:Stranger on the Shore|20738173]. 

And lastly, the romance in this book posed yet another mystery. Just what is going on with Police Chief Jack Carson? 

<i><blockquote>It was kind of hard to define their relationship. Friends with possibilities?</blockquote></i>

This book was just what I needed to get away from this increasingly chaotic world. A slice of escapist heaven from one of my favourite authors. And I am glad and grateful for it. I can't wait for book 3.

<i><b>Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.</b></i>
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Secret at Skull House is absolutely everything you want in a cozy mystery. An engaging murder plot, a tumultuous and sweet relationship evolving, and characters you love more with each book. Ellery Page is a protagonist who is easy to fall in love with; he's clever, stubborn, and funny. His love interest, the gruff, handsome police Chief Jack Carson is a perfect counterpoint. It's a pleasure to watch their relationship unfold. This book will leave you smiling and wanting more.
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This was a great sequel to the first book in the series. Definitely recommended to read in order, though I suppose it's not technically necessary. I think there's a lot you would miss out on if you didn't though. Lots of fun twists and turns that I didn't see coming.
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My Rating: 3.5
We are back with our favourite suspect of murder Ellery Page and this time around he's a suspect of murdering his ex-boyfriend? Yes, that's right! Ellery's ex-boyfriend, Brandon Abbott, which is a writer of supernatural mysteries decides to move to Pirate's Cove and everything gets complicated from then on. Being a suspect yet again Ellery decides that's he's going to resolve this mystery and the Skull House curse as well. Which might lead him into uncharted waters and put his like at risk.
I really liked the fact that Ellery's and Jack's relationship gets more development and could seem more from both of them but the best is the ending for sure; I was not expecting the kiss! I'm shipping them two from now on and can't wait for the last book!
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I have a confession. I really like Ellery! More so in this book than in the first. He's settling in quite nicely with his shop, the theater, scrabble club, and the mystery book club. And he's at a happy place in his friendship with Jack. I'm still on the fence about Jack. I want to like him for Ellery's sake, so I'm willing to cut him a little slack. I could appreciate his honesty regarding a certain situation, even though it hurt Ellery. I suppose it's better to know up front rather than when you're head over heels. But, oh, the lost potential makes me so sad!

I do usually prefer one character in Lanyon's books, while the other one frustrates me beyond belief. That's what is happening again! I'm looking forward to learning more about Jack and the events in his past that make him behave this way. I can't wait to see how his and Ellery's relationship evolves.

The secondary cast of characters are, once again, a mixed bag. The gossip flies around town faster than I could keep up with. I just shake my head every time one of them encourages Ellery to investigate a murder. Enough already! I feel as though Pirate's Cove is running low on murder suspects, so I think some fresh faces need to be introduced pronto!

Lanyon’s writing talents are spot on, always providing a well paced and easy to follow mystery that holds my attention to the end. I can't wait for the next book! 

4.5 Stars
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I love Secret at Skull House by Josh Lanyon!

The second in the Secrets and Scrabble series, a cozy mystery novel. I'm very new to the cozy mystery genre, but I'm enjoying them immensely.

This is a true series so definitely read Murder at Pirate's Cove first. I enjoyed the first one, but this sequel is so much better imo.

The set up is that Ellery's ex-boyfriend, Brandon, has purchased Skull House and is looking to base one of his novels on the dark secrets it holds. The town of Pirate's Cove is very protective of it's history, very secretive when it comes to it's darker aspects.

So when Ellery gets an unusual call from Brandon, he fears the worst. When he can't find Brandon, Ellery calls Police Chief Jack Carson. However, there's nothing Jack can do at the time.

But when Brandon's body shows up a day later, Ellery is once again the prime suspect because of their past relationship. It seems someone wasn't happy with Brandon's poking around at a murder that happened 20 years ago. It seems that the murder is still living on the island and is determined to keep their secret... If Ellery is going to clear his name and stay out of jail he needs to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Another aspect of this story that I love, is Ellery's and Jack's relationship. This is undeniably going to be a slow burn. It's so realistically angsty. Jack is the chief of police so it's natural to distance himself personally from Ellery while the investigation is ongoing, but Ellery thinks there's more to it. Ellery wants to keep things with Jack slow, because he's had some bad past relationships, but when the two put the breaks on their friendship we see how lonely Ellery is. I can't wait for them to work through their baggage and get together. They both deserve to be happy!

Arc provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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3.5 Stars.  I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as I did the first book.  I admit there is almost always one MC in Josh Lanyon's books who I just want to shake and this book (series) is no different.  There was basically no romance in this book and the slow build actually took a step backwards so that was frustrating but then again the romance in her series usually tends to be a bit frustrating but with a big payoff.  So I'm hoping that the same will happen here.  The mystery wasn't quite as strong this time so the lack of romance weighed a bit more on my rating.  However, this is still an enjoyable book with quirky characters I liked and I definitely plan to continue the series.

A copy of this book was provided to me by Netgalley and the publisher with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book and my comments here are my honest opinion
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Poor Ellery, he just can't seem to stay out of trouble. As unlikely as it seems that he'd find himself accused of murder again in such a short amount of time and in such a small community, it did make for a good story.

Even with the short time that readers spent with Brandon Abbott, it was pretty obvious why he and Ellery never made it as a couple. Brandon was a hard person to like and even though some were curious, there were a fair amount of residents of Pirate's Cove that weren't impressed. Along with that and the secrets that circled around Skull House, the list of people who would want him to disappear, but of course Ellery turned into the prime suspect. Which of course caused a strain on the "friendship" between Ellery and the police chief. Especially when Ellery saw no alternative than to try to prove his innocence, since it seemed that no one else was going to look for anyone else.

Rumors flew, conspiracies were whispered, tempers flared and Ellery had no idea who he could and couldn't trust. Secret at Skull House was still a fun, sweet story and I can't wait for the series to continue. Without giving too much away, I have to admit that Jack was not one of my favorite characters this time around. Maybe if I had his POV in Secret at Skull House I would have sympathized with him just a little bit more, but it may have been a totally different story if I had, and I really liked getting to know Ellery just a little bit more. Kinda reminds me of my feelings when reading a story about another bookseller and policeman...hmmm?
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This is the second novel in Josh Lanyon’s new Cozy Mystery series (Secrets and Scrabble), and we follow our snarky and often clueless main character Ellery Page who once again finds himself him a whole heap of trouble. 

As it turns out, Ellery’s ex-boyfriend and famous horror author Brandon Abbott has just come to town and purchased the supposedly haunted/cursed Skull House.  Abbott has purchased the house because of the two murders that have occurred there. Ellery is not happy about Abbott’s surprise appearance in Pirate’s Cove, given that their relationship ended badly.  

Things become even more complicated when Brandon stirs the hornet’s nest of a twenty-year-old murder case of a local high school football player and the subsequent disappearance of his supposed killer — a case that certain townspeople want to be forgotten.  As Brandon begins to investigate the cold case — much to the chagrin of certain locals — Ellery finds himself once again thrust into the middle of a murder case. As in the first book, Ellery begins ‘sleuthing’ to clear his name and reputation, which are once again being smeared in the local paper. As in the first book in this series, Ellery’s amateur investigating leads him into even more trouble. 

In this story, we also see the continuation of Ellery’s hot and cold, romance/non-romance with Police Chief Jack Carson, which again, stalls before it can take off, which, truth be told, resulted in somewhat of a frustrating reading experience. So like the first book, romance in this one is mostly non-existent. The author does a magnificent job of placing the story’s primary emphasis on the murder mystery with a small (and possibly developing?) side story on the two principal characters.

As this is a cozy mystery, there is no sex, cursing, or on-page violence, but what we do have is a fast-paced, whimsy, light and comforting read with a few exciting twists along the way as decades-old secrets become revealed.  But that being said, I found that Secret at Skull House contains all the things that cozy mystery readers live:  quirky and colorful locals, a small town, plenty of gossip, and a compelling mystery to solve and I’ll be interested to see where Lanyon takes the series in future books.

A huge thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this story.
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Another enjoyable cosy mystery set in fictional Pirate's Cove. The small town has a dark secret and it unfolds when an ex of Ellery’s appears on the scene. Ellery is cast as the main suspect in a murder case again. He’s been settling into the local community and now has friends and supporters who are keen to help him ‘prove’ his innocence. Just like Adrien English, he does his own investigating with help from a few nosy ladies and other locals.

At the beginning of the story, there’s a slow burn romance blossoming between Ellery and Police Chief Jack. They almost begin something but this is thwarted. Their chemistry and characters remind me a little of Adrien and Jake. There’s definitely something going on—I just hope we don’t have to wait until the final book in the series for their romance to finally bloom. It’s more of a cosy mystery than a romance. Josh certainly likes to make her characters work for their happiness.

Overall, this is a fun, enjoyable read. Josh’s writing draws you into the story and she portrays the characters well. The mystery is skilfully crafted and not too complex or complicated. It will keep you wondering ‘whodunnit’ along with Ellery and the cast of characters in Pirate's Cove.
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The mystery was absolutely perfect. I never saw it coming. Ellery’s friendships are heartwarming. I freaking adore Watson. And the best part of all, there’s no rush for their to be an immediate romance. The slow burn is VERY slow, and I fricking adore every second of it. My mantra is “Best friends first, then lovers” and Josh Lanyon got the memo.

My one and only little critique of Josh Lanyon’s mystery series is that I worry she relies on the same relationship angst tropes to fuel her characters. However, my minor complaint is balanced by how everything else was better. I’m so excited for book three.
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This second book in Josh Lanyon's M/M cozy mystery series is a delight. While the first book understandably spent a lot of time introducing the town of Pirate's Cove and its quirky murderous townsfolk, this book focuses more on the slow-burn relationship between Ellery Page and Police Chief Jack Carson.

For a "no sex, no gore" genre, Lanyon manages to pack in a lot of sexual tension and possibilities, as well as one of Ellery's ex-boyfriends, Brandon Abbott who buys Skull House, and promptly ends up murdered. Brandon is a strange character and not particularly fleshed-out, but he serves as a good device to uncover a set of unsolved murders from twenty years ago that may be linked to Brandon's murder. 

Maybe it's me, but the murder mystery didn't particularly grab me, but I will definitely look forward to the next book in the series, if only to find out what's going on with Jack and Ellery.  4 stars,
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Screenwriter Ellery Page is finally settling into Pirate's Cove, and maybe making headway with Police Chief Jack Carson. The scare of the murder that happened in his own bookshop, Crow's Nest, is perhaps behind him. Maybe. But, now he has a new nemesis in town: his old college lover and renown horror writer, Brandon Abbott. Brandon has purchased the Skull House, a famed pirate domicile with a history of violence and murder. Twenty years ago, a local man was murdered there, and the prime suspect disappeared.

The townsfolk of Pirate's Cove have been super tight-lipped over that unsolved crime, and Brandon's appearance has everyone on edge. Brandon's horror fiction usually pulls true crime and mixes it with the supernatural. Still, those old wounds run deep, and it's not long before Brandon goes missing. And, Ellery is the number one suspect...again. They had planned to meet that night, and Ellery even drove out to Skull House to investigate--though Chief Carson made a stop there, too, at Ellery's request.

Ellery's character keeps getting smeared through the local paper, and bigger news agencies are taking note. Ellery is sure that Brandon was sniffing after that unsolved murder, and when the spotlight falls on Ellery he isn't happy for the scrutiny. This mystery is filled with characters--from the 'dear gramps mayor' trying to silence the investigation, to the Ellery's bookshop employee--who publicly vows Brandon will sincerely regret buying Skull House. I thoroughly enjoyed Ellery's sheer mortification when the Skalliwags theater troupe puts on a staging of one of his "serious" plays--and it garners rave reviews as a comedy! Oh, Ellery is the guy who never wins, no matter how hard he tries. Determined to clear his name, Ellery usually ends up in worse trouble. Still, his self-deprecation and hubris is touching. Expect Ellery and Chief Carson to explore options and make waves in this sleepy town. I like how things are progressing regarding Ellery deepening his acquaintance with Chief Carson, even if we do not have any definitive growth in the romance area. Fingers crossed they find love, because Ellery really deserves it after all the crap he's endured.    

I flew through this story, much like the first book in this series, and I recommend it to fans of cozy mysteries, especially those starring LGBTQ characters.
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Secret at Skull House is the second book in the Secrets and Scrabble cozy series by Josh Lanyon. Released 28th April 2020, it's 208 pages and available in ebook format.

As a light and engaging series, this one is a winner. Protagonist Ellery is back to being a suspect in a murder only weeks after solving the murder from book 1. That obviously puts the skids on his budding friendship/romance with the local island police chief, Jack.

Although this is the second book in the series, it works very well as a standalone. The author is a technically adept writer and provides necessary backstory without info-dumping. The narrative is lighthearted, including an ensemble cast of oddball small-town characters.

There are some fairly unbelievable plot developments (including a group of senior citizen amateurs trying to help clear Ellery who call themselves the Silver Sleuths), but it's a village bookstore cozy, so it's really part of the whimsy. There's also the required slow-burn on/off romance subplot with the handsome lawman, again par for the course. The language is clean, the murder(s) are off screen and free from violence, there's no sexual content; it's a well written and charming bookstore cozy. The author/publisher has taken pains to make it clear that the romance is between two men, so I won't mention that, but there's absolutely no content which would scandalize anyone's auntie.

Charming, diverting, and well written. I intend to seek out future volumes in the series. Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes
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