A Death at the Dionysus Club by Amy Griswold and Melissa Scott (Julian Lynes and Ned Mathey #2)

In the sequel to Lambda Literary Award-winning Death by Silver, metaphysician Ned Mathey and private detective Julian Lynes again challenge magical and murderous threats in a Victorian London not quite the city in our history books. Mathey is recruited by Scotland Yard to assist the new Metaphysical Crimes Squad in the case of a literally heartless corpse. Mathey soon discovers that the magic used to rob the man of his heart and life does not conform to the laws of modern metaphysics-and then a second victim turns up. Meanwhile, a minor poet hires Lynes to track down and stop the blackmailer threatening to reveal him as the pseudonymous author of popular romances. When another target of the same blackmailer, a friend of Mathey's assistant Miss Frost, appeals for aid, Lynes and Mathey begin to suspect murders and blackmail are connected. Digging deep into the clandestine worlds of lawless antique magic and the gay demimonde, Mathey and Lynes must uncover the source and nature of a heart-stealing supernatural creature before it can kill them too, even as they face the scandal of exposing themselves as sodomites in order to close the case.

COVER ARTIST: Inkspiral Design
PUBLISHER: Queen of Swords Press
YEAR: 2023 (originally published 2014)
LENGTH: 332 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy, Mystery

Queer Rep Summary: Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Main Character(s), Closeted Main Character(s).

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

A DEATH AT THE DIONYSUS CLUB doubles down on the dangers of being a closeted homosexual in a homophobic society when Ned and Julian investigate a series of murders among the members of a particular men's club, all while trying to avoid letting the lead detective know what the victims have in common. 

This is a stellar example of story with homophobia entrenched in the worldbuilding in ways that affect the characters and make certain actions dangerous, but without filling the pages with slurs or overt bigotry. Their world is a dangerous place to be a man who likes men, and even though they are helping investigate a crime they're very aware that they could be locked up any minute for what they do at night. It's a story of trying to do the right thing and stop a strange series of murders at what might end up being a high personal cost. I like Ned and Julian as a couple. By making most intimate scenes fade to black instead of being explicit, the story stays focused on romance instead of sex, which may suit some readers who want a gay romance which doesn't double as erotica. 

As a sequel, A DEATH AT THE DIONYSUS CLUB focuses on Ned and Julian as they are more often in each other's company, working together on cases during the day and sharing a bed most nights. They're trying to carve out a space to be themselves, something which is made harder by knowing their late night activities are illegal for no reason except prudish bigotry. The worldbuilding delves a bit more into the magic system, mostly by looking into magic which doesn't conform to the modern system and reacts badly when the two are mixed. 

This doesn't specifically wrap up anything left hanging, but it does feature some professional and relational developments for several characters from DEATH BY SILVER. There's a new storyline which focuses on a string of bizarre deaths where men are being found with their hearts missing, and it gradually becomes clear that what they have in common is their sexual proclivities and their attendance at the Dionysus Club. That mystery is both introduced and resolved here, and while the plot wraps up neatly enough that this might stay as a duology, I have hope that it will turn into a longer series in this reprint with a new press.

Moderate CW for alcohol, homophobia, sexism, sexual content, blood, gore, murder, death.

Minor CW for racism, religious bigotry, sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, animal cruelty.

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Two white men in old-fashioned suits stand within a frame of red and silver.


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