Review: Idyll Hands by Stephanie Gayle

Title: Idyll Hands by Stephanie Gayle
Thomas Lynch Series Book Three
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Genre: Historical (90s), Mystery, Suspense
Length: 303 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


In the small, sleepy town of Idyll, Connecticut, Police Chief Thomas Lynch assists police officer Michael Finnegan to uncover clues to his sister’s disappearance two decades ago.

Charleston, Massachusetts, 1972: Rookie cop Michael Finnegan gets a call from his mother. His youngest sister, Susan, has disappeared, the same sister who ran away two years earlier. Anxious not to waste police resources, Finnegan advises his family to wait and search on their own. But a week turns into two decades, and Susan is never found.

Idyll, Connecticut, 1999: In the woods outside of town, a young woman’s corpse is discovered, and Detective Finnegan seems unusually disturbed by the case. When Police Chief Thomas Lynch learns about Finnegan’s past, he makes a bargain with his officer: He will allow Finnegan to investigate the body found in the woods–if Finnegan lets the bored Lynch secretly look into the disappearance of his sister.

Both cases reveal old secrets–about the murder, and about the men inside the Idyll Police Station and what they’ve been hiding from each other their whole careers.


Set in 1999, Idyll Hands by Stephanie Gayle is a spellbinding police procedural about the investigations into two unrelated cold cases. This third installment in the Thomas Lynch series is just as outstanding as the two preceding novels. Although this latest outing can be read as a standalone, I highly recommend the entire series.

Thomas Lynch is a former New York detective who is now the police chief in Idyll, CT. Without much serious crime and two detectives on staff to handle investigations, Lynch remains hopelessly bored as he handles budgets and avoids Mayor Mike Mitchell. Nosing around the evidence room, he finds a box containing a human bone and unexpected DNA results. The bone belongs to a still unidentified victim and Lynch’s curiosity is piqued by the DNA test.  When skeletonized remains are discovered close to where the bone was found years earlier, Detective Lewis Wright and his partner, part-time Detective Michael “Finny” Finnegan are assigned to the case. Meanwhile, Thomas begins an investigation into the still unsolved disappearance of Finny’s sister Susan who has been missing for twenty seven years.  With both cases long grown cold, will the investigations lead to justice for the families of the victims?

Wright and Finny have their work cut out for them as they attempt to identify their victim.  They diligently sort through a slew of missing persons cases and their search soon pays off.  After sifting though old case files and  re-interviewing the victim’s parents, Wright and Finny are beginning to zero in on a suspect. But will the passage of time make it impossible for them to find the evidence they need to definitively link the victim to the killer?

Thomas  surreptitiously  enlists Wright’s help with the investigation into Susan’s disappearance. This unexpected partnership is a surprising boon to their uneasy working relationship but this improvement remains fragile.  A surprising insight by Thomas takes the case in a completely unanticipated direction but their progress eventually runs into a brick wall. Lynch continues combing through police reports and with previous witnesses speaking more freely, a break in the case raises hope they will learn Susan’s fate.

Lewis and Thomas are both undergoing a bit of turmoil in their private lives. Now that everyone knows Thomas is gay, he is involved in his first public relationship with FBI Agent Matt Cisco. Thomas is still grappling with the complexities of conducting a romance out in the open so he makes a few mistakes and stumbles that jeopardize his future with Matt. Not everyone under his command is comfortable working for a gay boss and Lewis remains on edge around Lynch. Working together on Susan’s case helps erase some of tension between them, but Wright is extremely stressed due to an unexpected family crisis. Lewis is quick to shut Lynch out but will this put an end to their cordial working relationship?

With an marvelous cast of characters, witty banter and two fascinating cases to solve,  Idyll Hands is an absolutely riveting mystery.  Thomas is more at ease with his quiet life in Idyll but he still misses the fast-paced career he left behind.  Susan’s case provides interesting insight into oft-divorced yet always amiable Detective Finnegan. Lewis is still hesitant to fully accept Lynch’s revelation about his personal life so it is quite refreshing to witness a thawing in his attitude toward his boss. The dual investigations into the cold cases are realistically portrayed as the detectives encounter the expected issues with witnesses and reports since so many years have passed since the victims’ disappeared. This latest addition to Stephanie Gayle’s Thomas Lynch series is another top-notch police procedural that fans of the genre are going to love.

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Filed under Contemporary, Historical, Historical (90s), Idyll Hands, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Seventh Street Books, Suspense, Thomas Lynch Series

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