Leonard Quill has built a private investigation business from the ground up. A large part of his success is due to his own prowess. He also has help from Roxanne—nominally his secretary, but actually his bodyguard—who has a keen eye for picking the right client. She picks a doozy when young Westley Valentine walks through their doors. Like Roxanne, Westley has his heart set on bringing down the biggest crime boss in the city for causing harm to his family. Westley knows there is irrefutable evidence of the mob’s illicit affairs, but he needs Leonard’s help getting it and delivering proof to the police.
Unable to say no to Westley’s alluring blue eyes and appealing stature, Leonard agrees to help. His first step is to secure the evidence necessary. Just as Leonard is about to infiltrate the mob’s base, though, Westley appears and is convinced he can help. Although they manage to snag the evidence they need, Westley’s inexperience with covert operations alerts the mob to their presence, leaving him with no choice but to seek safe harbor with Leonard for the night. It doesn’t take long for their attraction to bubble to the surface—and what an attraction it is! But Leonard soon realizes that Westley may be in over his head and that Leonard himself might just be falling for him.
The Case of the Boy in Blue feels like a homage to the noir crime genre. I can’t quite nail down a time period for this, though there are some hints at the 1940s with slang like “dame” and Roxanne’s sartorial selections. I think Meusissen worked the short story format well. First, there was plenty of world-building detail that let me create an enjoyable mental image of the time period. Next, I thought the three most prominent characters were well differentiated in terms of personality and motives without being too defined by their relationship to the plot. Obviously, the private investigator/client roles for Leonard and Westley get tempered with their instant attraction. There is also a sliver of “what if Westley is using Leonard…and if so, for what purposes?” that I thought was a bold choice for a short work, but Meusissen manages that suspense handily.
Going back to characters, I enjoyed how the attraction between Leonard and Westley unfolds. Technically, I don’t think these two characters spend more than 48 hours together, so insta-something is pretty much the only way for them to get together. Despite almost immediately acting on these feelings, their connection seemed more realistic than the instalove trope I encounter so often. I think this is precisely because Leonard and Westley don’t immediately confess a love as inexplicably strong as it is instantaneous. Instead, they acknowledge their mutual attraction and act on it without losing their heads. I also think Westley proving to be a bit more than a blushing virgin in the sack helped add dimension to him; he may look all innocent and aloof, but he proves to be a man of experience. Similarly, I feel like Leonard’s hard-boiled exterior is paired nicely with a bit of vulnerability.
My only criticism would be that the crime bosses and the extent to which they’ve ruined Westley’s and Roxanne’s lives, as well as how much Leonard is or isn’t a thorn in the side of organized crime, felt pretty opaque. It’s clear that Westley’s parents get targeted by the villains, but the hows and whys weren’t very clear. Roxanne similarly lost a loved one to these bad guys without much detail beyond that. For such a short story, it wasn’t a huge deal, but it did dampen a bit of the tension in scenes where the heroes confront the villains.
Overall, I thought this was a great, short read. For any readers who are fans of crime drama, get togethers, and loosely period stories, I think you’ll really enjoy this. Meusissen paints a delightful noir-ish picture with characters that act on clear motives without feeling like pure vehicles for the plot. There is a little spice and some high emotions, though sometimes the backstory about those emotions (murdered family members, specifically) felt a bit underdeveloped.