弔いの森 (ハヤカワ ポケット ミステリ―デイヴ・ブランドステッター・シリーズ) 新書 – 1992/3
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Dave is now officially retired and is showing and feeling his age. He's now on Medicare; other old friends who have populated this series are either dying or retiring themselves, and Dave is feeling the weight of his changing world bearing down on him, both physically and emotionally. But then Vaughn Thomas, an employee of a local television station, is shot and killed while engaged in a paintball game at a place called the Combat Zone.
The police conclude that Thomas was accidentally killed by a stray shot fired by a hunter from outside the Combat Zone and close the books on the case. But the victim was a fellow employee of Dave's lover, Cecil Harris, who also works at Channel 3. Cecil doesn't buy the official explanation of the death and asks Dave to look into it. Cecil would prefer, of course, that Dave do so quietly and without exposing himself to any sort of risk. But as any reader of crime fiction would say to that, "Fat chance," and in very short order, Dave is in deep trouble and grave danger.
Dave quickly discovers that Vaughn Thomas was a troubled young man with disturbing views about life. In particular, he was a virulent anti-Semite and a racist who longed to be a soldier of fortune and who had spent time training with a militia group in a small rural community named Winter Creek. As he investigates the case, Dave stirs up a hornets' nest and anger some pretty violent and reprehensible people. Other murders will follow and the case takes a lot of unexpected twists and turns.
Fans of the series will welcome this addition (or did, of course, since it first appeared twenty-two years ago) and crime fiction fans unfamiliar with the series would almost certainly enjoy it.
The only reservation I have about the book is the fact that Dave's lover, Cecil, would care enough about Vaughn Thomas's death to ask Dave to get involved in the first place, let alone risk life and limb to solve the mystery. Cecil is a black man and it's hard to imagine that he and Thomas could possibly have been friends at all, given the murdered man's racial views. But Dave needs some way into the case and this is as good as any. This is another very satisfying book from Hansen.
Bottom line: an overall likable but less than enthralling read. Recommended.
I love gay mysteries and romances, and this has been one of the best series combining both, and in the process rightfully became for Joseph Hansen a classic in gay literature. This eleventh in the series was just as good as the earlier high-quality ones and continued to build the story.
I liked this for the same reasons I liked each in the series. First off, for those interested, it worked well as a standalone, with its own self-contained mystery, while also further developing the character and life of the MC, his boyfriend and other supporting characters, and smoothly providing any explanations needed to bring a first-time reader up on previous happenings.
Also, it was a nice, short, easy read, with a good, well-paced plot and character development. I enjoyed the walk back in time to my earlier years, with moments of what was then current situations and culture vividly described by Hansen in a way that helped me remember those times. And I liked that the main focus was on the mystery, with the gay aspect and any romance as a major subplot. The mystery itself was engaging and suspenseful, with the investigation having realistic twists and turns. It had a refreshing approach of not featuring your typical detective or PI but an insurance investigator pursuing the clues. In this one, as is characteristic now of Hansen, I appreciated the storyline revolving around some aspect of culture and particularly prejudice, in this case white supremacy and para-militarism, and how that raised the tension. However, for whatever reason, I found I was not as invested in this story, maybe because I wasn't sure about some motives, like why the MC's lover would care enough about the victim to suggest a case that would outweigh his concerns for the MC's health and retirement. That said, I did appreciate the case, and within that the care that the MC showed toward some of the victims to help them out, and I again liked the descriptions of the southern California settings.
Hansen also developed nicely the whole set of characters. Of course there was more on the MC, with Hansen really getting into the life and mindset of a hard-boiled, matter-of-fact, honorable, self-accepting, sometimes melancholy and grieving gay man who I grew to like for all his skills, heart and humanness. As for the supporting cast, I also got a good feel for who they were, with some new ones to keep things fresh. For those who read the previous books, it was nice that some characters returned; but don't worry first-time readers, they were introduced and described just as if it’s a standalone. A nice bonus has been the MC’s gay life and relationships; and while I continued to enjoy his continuing relationship with his partner and its interracial, intergenerational diversity, I was a bit disappointed I didn't see more of it. But as a nice consolation I did get to see something that I rarely see in such series, that of an aging sleuth realistically dealing with retirement, failing health and the loss of close friends.
I continue to be impressed with the level of quality that Hansen maintains in this series, and I look forward to the last one.