Chain of Fools - Richard Stevenson
A Donald Strachey Mystery #6

Ladymol's Review

I didn’t enjoy this Donald Strachey novel as much as the five preceding ones; it was just a little too complex for me, with not enough of the relationship between Don and Timmy that makes these gay detective novels such fun to read.

It started out promisingly enough. Timmy hires Don to investigate the murder of one his ex-boyfriends boyfriends. As you can imagine, Don is delighted to do this, and a lovely little bit of jealousy surfaces. What’s more, Timmy wants to help with the investigation, something that could really put pressure on their relationship.

From that point on, the novel becomes a very complex web of family intrigue about rivals for the ownership of a newspaper. There are twists and turns galore, but I just couldn’t really feel anything for these people, not as I did for the victims of the previous novels’ crimes.

I still adore Don. Timmy has taken on a whole new role in this novel (no spoilers) that I’m interested to see play out in the next one.

I have the last two in the series and can’t wait to read them, so in no way does this one put me off at all. I still highly recommend the whole series.


Cerisaye's Review

Bad parenting, emotionally uninvolved and abusive, makes families prone to violence, treachery and greed.  It passes down generations and is exacerbated by money and power.  However, while there may well be a gay gene that determines sexual preference parents do not make a child gay, though lack of acceptance in the place meant to be a safe haven  doesn’t make a gay child feel loved and secure

What has all this got to do with the 6th Don Strachey mystery?  Well, the story centres around a successful but very messed up family: three generations, five siblings, gay & straight, their partners & offspring and an elderly widowed mother with early Alzheimer’s.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is that it’s the gay characters who are the happiest, well adjusted and secure in long-term partnerships, the couples you’d most like for parents if children had any choice.  Though they owe that to the non-traditional families they’ve made for themselves.

It’s the personal relationship between Don & Timmy that sucks me in to the Strachey books, desperate for any detail on the characters and their life together, a gay partnership that is very believable.  Don & Timmy had lives before they met and that’s part of what makes them so real to me. 

Only Timmy- the product of Jesuits who knows how to torture himself with guilt- would hire his lover to investigate the probable murder of an adolescent sex-buddy’s life’s-love.  Timothy abandoned Eldon ‘Skeeter’ McCaslin when he left Poughkeepsie, now, 32 years later, Skeeter has a friend whose life might be in danger, and just maybe a personal need to find out what happened to the boy who couldn’t accept the implications that what they had was more than youthful lust.

Could a complicated feud over the fate of the liberal Osborne family newspaper about to be snatched up by a Rupert Murdoch type conglomerate of hatchet men and asset strippers, provide a motive for murder? What makes people turn out the way they do, so someone could possibly kill a member of his/her own family?  And why has Janet Osborne’s partner Dale got it in for poor Timmy Callahan?  Expect the usual deftly plotted mix of action, humour and insight into the complexity of the human heart & soul.

Skeeter is HIV+ with poor health and his partner of 11 years dead.  Love makes you vulnerable and Don sees more than his share of pain.  There’s a lovely moment where Don says neither he nor Timmy was the other’s first love, but the deepest and longest. Timmy back in 1963 ran away because he wanted to be ‘normal’, i.e. straight.  Well, Timothy couldn’t escape what he was, lucky for Don, and all these years later he’s the perfect example of loving and loyal normality. 

I’m straight onto the next book in the series then it’s only one more to go…though I have it on the best authority that Stevenson IS working on a new Strachey novel, if only he can find a publisher.  If you enjoy these books, then please write to him and show your support…then maybe lobby St Martin’s Press, as I intend to do.  Now is a good time, with the TV adaptation of Third Man Out appearing recently in the US- I was wrong, BTW, Timmy IS very much part of the story, which pleases me no end.  Unmissable.

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