Boystown 4: A Time For Secrets written by Marshall Thornton – A Review


Written by Marshall Thornton – Narration by Brad Langer

Review by Jon Michaelsen

In Boystown 4: A Time For Secrets, Marshall Thornton has penned the first full-length novel featuring tough, rough around the edges, at times jaded, former Chicago cop turned private detective, Nick Nowak, which is perhaps my favorite of the series thus far. A Time For Secrets contains a stunning mystery that reveals an older gentleman’s longing to learn whatever happened to his long lost lover, a decades old murder and a mix of Chicago politics; the novel is first rate and deftly written with enough twists, turns and red herrings to keep a reader flying through the pages to find out what happens.

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Also contained within the pages is further insight into the sometimes odd relationship between Nick and his cop-currently on medical leave-boyfriend, Bert Harker, who still has both feet firmly in the closet when it comes to his overbearing and unaccepting mother, Mrs. Harker. Unlike previous Nick Nowak stories, Thornton tosses in a budding friendship his lover, Harker, has with an ambitious young reporter with starry eyes, and seemingly ulterior motives. The boy inserts himself more and more into Nick and Harker’s home — and relationship — in the guise of learning more about the vicious Bughouse Slasher, the last case Harker was working before having to take medical leave as his health got worse.

The Bughouse Slasher case continues a story-arc that has existed since the release of the second Nick Nowak novel, Boystown 2: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries and comes to a head by the end of the novel when readers learn Harker has been secretly carrying on the investigation into discovering the identity of the serial killer, perhaps aided by the doe-eyed young reporter who has now inserted himself into Nick and Harker’s relationship. Not surprising, really, considering the time – early 80s – and the openness of most gay relationships of the time, but readers come away with a real sense of the deep love Nick has for Harker, especially when he is forced to face his own jealously, something even Nick didn’t think he could ever exhibit.

Once again, I listened to the unabridged audio book version. Boystown 4: A Time For Secrets. As I’ve said before, reading and/or listening to a Nick Nowak novel is like slipping on a well-worn leather coat, comfortable and warm and the same feelings holds throughout this novel. Nick Nowak continues his tough man, studly persona, while just beneath the surface he knows he must come to terms with his lover’s worsening health and be there to support Bert. Yet, it’s Harker who comes across stronger than Nick in this regard, working to prepare and provide support to his lover through the enviable, clear his conscience by finally coming out to his mother, and to enjoy what remains of his life.

Narrator, Brad Langer, who has narrated the previous Nick Nowak mysteries, has become Nick Nowak to me. His voice is perfect for the series and I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role. Not only can I highly recommend Boystown 4: A Time For Secrets, but I can also assure any reader of mysteries the entire Nick Nowak mystery series is destined to become a classic, ranked up there with the likes of Michael Nava’s Henry Rios, Richard Stevenson’s Donald Stratchy and Greg Herren’s Chanse MacLeod series.

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