LA Heat - PA Brown
Why is it so hard for most of the writers weíve reviewed to write the perfect gay novel? Maybe they should take some lessons from PA Brown, because LA Heat is just about as perfect as they come.† Sheís got characters you really care about, a plot that keeps you turning pages faster than you should with writing this good, and emotional satisfaction on every page. She blends all the ingredients into a slick, gritty novel, which played on my mind and drew me back to it any spare moment I had.
A man is killing young gay men in horrific ways and Detective David Laine is assigned the case. Itís not personal Ė nothing is personal for David because heís living a lie, deep in his closet, denying what he is and what he needs. Until, that is, he meets the main suspect in the killings, Chris. Chris is brought into the station one day; David looks up and sees the most beautiful man heís ever seen. From that moment on heís conflicted between his feelings for Chris and a desire to prove him innocent, and his deep-rooted need to hide what he is and feels by finding Chris guilty if the evidence says he is.
Chris doesnít need a new man in his life. Heís happily playing the field, working hard and playing hard. He most certainly doesnít need this bear of a detective in his life. But most of all he doesnít need to be the number one suspect in the Carpet Killings, as the press have dubbed the murders.
The emotional tension between the two men is as tight and compelling as the creeping horror of the murders. Thereís not a misplaced word throughout the book with snappy dialogue and very realistic police procedural scenes. But best of all, I believe this is the first of a series. If the next is as good as this one, it will stand up there with Donald Strachey, Dave Brandstetter, Adrian English and Henry Rios as a brilliant gay crime novel. Do get this one, I highly recommend it.†
Wow.† A properly published crime thriller/gay romance thatís as satisfying as slashficÖwell apart from frustrating fade-to-black sex scenes, presumably to increase crossover appeal. This book is a definite must read for anyone who likes realistic, compulsive, edge-of-your- seat plotting combined with a hefty dose of m/m romance heavy on the angst and conflict.†
Brownís matter-of-fact police procedural reads like a novelisation of countless TV cop dramas, except David Eric Laine, LAPD Homicide detective, is gay.† Weíve recently seen here! TVís adaptation of Richard Stevensonís Donald Strachey novels so maybe this is a breakthrough- or the beginning of one- from that marginalising gay ghetto to the mainstream.†
37 year-old David is deeply closeted, a defence against ingrained institutional homophobia, despite lip service paid to equality and gay rights. His sexuality is repressed and denied, allowed out only once a year during trips to Palm Springs (under the manly guise of attending classic motor shows), an essential safety valve in a lonely life where work is all he has but just not enough.† Then he meets beautiful Chris Bellamere, 10 years younger and altogether different.† Chris totally accepts HIS sexuality, works hard (computer whiz) and plays harder (casual one night stands picked up for sex in bars and clubs).† Chris lives comfortably but alone, the typical commitment-phobic partyboy who shies away from real intimacy- maybe he does have issues? Chris senses Davidís interest through his layers of denial and the hunky cop just canít keep away from Chris.
Problem is Chris is involved in Davidís latest case, the rape and shockingly brutal murder of several victims somehow connected with Chris, either friends or pickups from the bar he regularly frequents.† Davidís job is on the line if he has a personal relationship with Chris who is a suspect or investigative lead.† Davidís partner Martinez has unreconstructed attitudes towards gay men he makes no attempt to hide so itís down to David to help Chris prove his innocence in an action packed race to find the killer before he destroys Chris and any chance for David to come to terms with who he is.
Characters make or break a novel and this one works because Brown gives us men who could be stereotypes but arenít as theyíre well developed.† Itís not just that David is closeted and Chris is out that divides them, or the age gap.† David is a Ďbearí with acne scars and moustache (how very 70s porno) whereas Chris is the typical gym-going designer-clad prettyboy, an interesting dynamic.† Chrisí computer skills come in handy so thereís potential for a working partnership if David decides to leave the LAPD- though I hope not because itíd be great to have an openly gay cop working within to change attitudes.†
This gritty novel covers serious issues, like the way the killerís victims are young boys whose families either donít know theyíre gay, donít want to know or disown them so no one cares what happens to them.† Casual assumptions by Davidís partner Martinez that itís easier to be raped if youíre gay, and all gay men are paedophile predators.† One of the victims is a beautiful boy sucked into the sleazy end of the sex industry, incapable of real feeling because he thinks heís worthless, exploited for his looks and need for confirmation heís desirable.† These are things I think about when I watch twink porn .
I wasnít entirely convinced by how easily David comes outÖheís already saying ďI love youĒ to Chris? Also Chris is a little feminised and I admit I ignored Brownís description of David- too much hair for me!† Josh Lanyon got a lot of stick from readers about what his closeted cop does to his lover Adrien in The Hell You Say, but itís more realistic than Davidís quick turnaround.† Lucky too that Chris can afford the kind of high price lawyer needed to keep him out of police custody while the investigation proceeds.† He and his friends live a cosy West Hollywood lifestyle far removed from the victims.† Itís not difficult to guess who the killer is, though there are some good twists.†
Itís not the mystery plot that attracts me to gay detective stories but characters and their relationships.† Brown has made an excellent start with David & Chris.† I hope she plans a lengthy series to develop their romance!