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Hidden Law - Michael Nava

Ladymol's Review

Hidden Law This is the 4th in the Henry Rios series and I think the best so far. I was so caught up in this one I've finished it in a day (okay, I am laid up with a broken foot, but I give Nava the credit that he's written a compelling story in this book). Henry's life is the law and he doesn't often take time for more personal concerns. Josh, his young lover, has been an intriguing but often absent minor character. In this novel, his relationship with Josh is brought painfully centre stage as Josh's health begins to decline due to AIDS. Coping with Josh's reaction to this and to his new case, Henry is forced into facing truths about himself he'd thought long forgotten. This is the first Rios mystery not to be based around Henry's homosexuality but the fact that he's a Latino. Not being American, I don't pretend to understand the complexities of the politics of this within LA. I was amazed to discover that there is a movement dedicated to returning (giving) LA to Mexico. Despite not really getting the whole issue, I was fascinated by the way Nava writes about it in the novel. Every detail of the book, whether about gay life, Latino issues or criminal law, is utterly authentic. Minor characters are well developed and cleverly integrated into the novel. I ended this novel in tears, so it's not always an easy read, but it wouldn't have had that effect on me unless it was so completely honest. The quiet dignity of Henry and Josh, facing the inevitable end of their relationship will tear you up. A respite with a gorgeous new man was handled with amazingly erotic sensibility. I highly recommend this series and very much hope Henry finds what he is looking for on his new journey of self-discovery.

Cerisaye's Review

The 4th Henry Rios mystery is worked around a fairly standard murder investigation involving a corrupt politician Chicano gangs in LA. The focus is on fathers and sons. Henry is 40, having something of a personal crisis. Young lover Josh is losing the struggle against AIDS. His way of dealing with that threatens to end the relationship and Henry doesn't know what to do. Nava has compassion for his characters, so they feel real, most of all Henry. If you're looking for straight-forward mystery the Rios books provide that, but the way the crime element meshes with Henry's development as a character gives his story great emotional impact. Through helping his clients by relentlessly pursuing truth, Henry experiences painful self-discovery on his road to recovery from alcoholism. Personal unhappiness rooted in childhood, a father who never understood Henry, who would never have accepted a gay son. "He wants to be loved", says one character speaking of murder suspect Michael Ruiz. "That's all he's ever wanted." Just like Henry, rejected by his father, now being cut out of what's left of his life by Josh, the only man he's ever loved. Henry is convinced Ruiz is innocent of P?na's murder, despite the boy's confession. Defending Ruiz, a troubled adolescent drawn to gang culture because he's desperate to belong, investigating the senator's background, similar to Henry's own, Henry is forced to confront his past- the father who denied approval, the violent abusive drunk Henry has spent his whole life determined NOT to become. It's pretty obvious who the killer is: Whodunnit? isn't what drives the story; it's the Why?, and how that relates to Henry Rios, an unhappy man of whom someone says "You've become someone other than who you might actually be". The kind of hate you get only in families is something Henry knows all about, he's made it the basis of his whole life, pain followed by anger that turned a poet into an alcoholic work-obsessed lawyer with difficulty making emotional attachments. It's a sad book. Watching Henry & Josh fall apart is awful. I wanted to hug Henry and protect Josh from the ravages of the terrible disease that's going to kill him. Henry is granted some relief in the arms of a man with similar demons. Nava doesn't make it easy for his characters or his readers- not many detective novels have the power to make you cry. As we leave Henry, he's made choices to bring closer the man he should be, and is coming to terms with what can't be changed. Highly recommended.

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