Secret at Skull House: An M/M Cozy Mystery

Secrets and Scrabble 2

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Pub Date 28 Apr 2020 | Archive Date 30 Jun 2020

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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 posthaste. Because after his former flame disappears following their loud and public argument, Ellery seems to be Police Chief Carson’s first—and only—suspect. 


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...

A Note From the Publisher

Secret at Skull House is the second book in the new M/M cozy mystery series Secrets and Scrabble. As with all cozy mysteries, there is no on-screen violence or sex. This novel features a gay protagonist.

Secret at Skull House is the second book in the new M/M cozy mystery series Secrets and Scrabble. As with all cozy mysteries, there is no on-screen violence or sex. This novel features a gay...

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The book will also be available in print and audio.

The book will also be available in print and audio.

Available Editions

ISBN 9781945802638
PRICE $3.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 29 members

Featured Reviews

This is book two in the cozy mystery series Secrets and Scrabble starring book store owner and reluctant amateur sleuth Elliott Park. And once again, Elliott is driven to investigate a murder in order to clear his own name. How unlucky can one guy be?

Elliott is having a perfectly nice day and hoping for some forward movement in his crush on Police Chief Jack Carson, when he hears news that completely ruins his day…his ex has bought Skull House. Elliott figures he has a reprieve as it will take a long time before that house is inhabitable but sure enough, Brandon shows up that night. It quickly becomes apparent that there are secrets surrounding Skull House that people in town do not want discussed and when Brandon turns up dead Elliott becomes the prime suspect in a murder once again. So much for the burgeoning relationship with Jack!

The hunt for clues is interesting and the red herrings are plenty. I was pretty sure of the villain early on but it was fun to read Elliott’s trajectory of coming to the same conclusion. The ending is vintage cozy mystery though the rescue is never explained which is bothersome. The ending is bittersweet though I am anticipating the tension in book three with some glee.

The writing is crisp and clever as usual with Lanyon. And her development of setting is so well done I feel like I know these people and I could visit Pirate’s Cove…which I keep wanting to call Cabot Cove because there are so many similarities! A quick, fun read.

**I voluntarily read an ARC and this is my unbiased opinion.**

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Secret at Skull House is a wonderful cozy mystery. I devoured this book in one sitting! They mystery part will keep you guessing and fully invested in the outcome. The very slow burn romance will hold your interest and have you rooting for Ellery to get his HEA. I can't wait for the next book in this addictive series!

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This second book in the series is as much fun as the first. Once again Ellery is accused of murder, but this time he's got members of the community backing him. Not all of them of course, there's still Sue, the hateful newspaper reporter/owner spreading her particularly poisonous brand of story.
The mystery was clever and kept me guessing and I didn't work it out until Ellery had laid it all out for me.
The relationship between Ellery and Jack is so slow burn that it is literally going backwards at this point. But apparently there are a lot more books planned so hopefully it will progress eventually.

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Secret at Skull House continues a few months where Murder at Pirate's Cove left: Ellery is renovating the crumbling mansion and starting to turn the failing bookstore into a bit profit. Not to mention, he's going ever closer to Jack, the handsome police chief. Except life's not easy for Ellery, because his ex shows up and seems to be staying, the eccentric author Brandon bought a haunted house and keeps pestering Ellery. And then he's in the middle of another murder mystery.

Cosy mystery is fast becoming a subgenre I like a lot. Quick and comforting, fun and cute, this book fits perfectly for the mood I'm in at the moment. A perfect escapism in the middle of the unknown of the real life, it is great to spend some hours at Pirate's Cove and follow Ellery and his developing detective skills. Hugely entertaining, I quickly devoured Secret at Skull House and I'd definitely continued with the series, but unfortunately I'll have to wait for the next instalment. Lanyon delivers fast paced, fun story with some twists, and it's a good continuity for the series. I continue to recommend Secrets and Scrabble for those who want something quick and fun, a cosy mystery that is perfect way to spend few evenings with such story, especially if there's tea to accompany!

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Nobody crafts a story like Josh Lanyon, and this wonderful "cozy" mystery series really shows off her skills. I'm loving Secrets and Scrabble!

Ellery is a doll, and there's a fascinating cast of characters to back him up. The mysterious goings-on of Buck Island keep getting more interesting, and if Ellery and Jack just stay friends I think I'll be okay.

So much fun, and all I can say is: Josh Lanyon, please write faster!!!

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4* Well written, with enough intrigue, characters and red herrings to make this a lovely little read.

This book was right up my street: a setting that feels like a little English village; a couple of really likeable leads; a host of side characters of an age (ish) that would normally not feature in your average (clearly, this is an above average tale) MM novel; a decent mystery; a baddie that I wouldn't have seen coming, and, lovely little Watson. Watson with his little doggy heart and his doggy devotion and doggy demands and his doggy bravery and looking out for his doggy dad. But, I digress (Brit and uber animal lover, here), sorry!

This is a lighter tale, by which I mean that there's not a lot of obfuscation-intrigue and the endless dot-to-dot that you might find in longer, darker mysteries, but that was perfect for me for the time we're living in, and it delivered what it promised. I got a simple tale, but one with 'body', with a feeling of familiarity (in the best way), and the usual suspects that either seemed to like or have a secret loathing for Ellery. I admit to going off track for both the bad guy and a certain character whom I've liked from the very start, and who's been perhaps the best friend Ellery has made so far on the island, and I was pleased to be wrong (unusual for a Scorpio!).

I got a little more in the romance stakes than I expected - the confession from Jack was kind of really romantic and really sad at the same time, and that Ellery understood and responded in the way he did made my heart hurt. But only a little, because I see this series with the potential to go on and on. I'm not sure if there will be 3 tales or more, but there are secrets to be discovered in Pirate Cove and the slow burn, is-it-on-or-off-or-am-I-reading-too-much-into-things-because-at-heart-I'm-a-romantic? relationship could grow over many more books. Though this series doesn't have an out-and-out romance at its core, that doesn't bother me with this author, as I'd rather take something that feels authentic and that's intelligent, over something faux and perfunctory, simply because there are expectations from the genre, to use 'genre' very loosely.

ARC courtesy of JustJoshin Publishing, Inc and NetGalley for my reading pleasure.

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This is the second installment of the Secrets and Scrabble Series. It is a wonderful cozy mystery. It is set in this unique pirate themed town that allows for some interesting situations. The characters are interesting and the pace good. A wonderful read, I can’t wait for the next installment of the series.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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