Strachey's Folly - Richard Stevenson
A Donald Strachey Mystery #7

Ladymol's Review

Any fan of the Strachey novels will immediately suspect what Don’s folly is in this book. I was right. I loved this penultimate novel in the series. Don and Timmy’s relationship is back in the forefront of the action, both under real physical threat of danger as well as the emotional troubles that beset it in the early novels.

Don and Timmy are visiting Washington to stay with an old Peace Corps buddy of Timmy’s Maynard. Whilst in the Capitol they go to see the AIDS quilt ( Shockingly, they see the name of an old boyfriend’s of Maynard’s, Jim Suter, who isn’t dead—he saw him only the month before in Mexico.

That night, Maynard receives a letter from Jim who begs him to keep his whereabouts secret—particularly from the police and the politicians on Capitol Hill. Timmy, with his Jesuit background, immediately suspects a conspiracy, not helped by Maynard getting shot that night.

Don thinks the explanation is far more mundane and linked to the fact that Jim Suter is the “breaker of men’s hearts”: he’s had hundreds (thousands) of boyfriends whom he’s loved and dumped within two weeks. He’s left a trail of embittered, broken hearts throughout Washington, and Don thinks it’s far more likely explanation for the tasteless quilt panel and perhaps the shooting.

There are lovely moments between Don and Timmy throughout this book. We discover who tops and bottoms (something Cerisaye and I have wondered about). We have a love scene and best of all for me, we have a rare declaration of love and some hand-holding. I was actually beginning to worry that something awful was coming.

This plot just romped along. Don is behaving badly again, and he’s at his best when that happens.

I’ve just started the last of the whole series and I’m in mourning already. Highly recommended.

Cerisaye's Review

The 7th Strachey murder mystery takes Don & Timmy to Washington, DC, where they’re visiting Maynard Sudbury, an old buddy from Timothy’s fondly remembered Peace Corps days.  Looking at the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a poignant testament to lost but remembered lives, Maynard is shocked to see the name of an ex lover, Jim Suter, a man he believes very much alive.  Suter, says Maynard, is an unprincipled freelance right wing political hack who, even though he’s gay, worked for the Krumfutzes, a husband & wife political partnership, homophobic and reactionary, tainted by sleaze and corruption. 

Maynard bumped into Jim recently in Mexico, but Suter cut him dead.  Not exactly untypical behaviour from an emotional sadist who seduces then just as quickly spurns his conquests.  Now, however, he’s got a letter saying Jim is in big trouble.  He knows something incriminating that could send some influential people to jail for a long time.  So, that quilt panel is a threat or warning.  Maynard and Don & Timmy too, by association, are in danger until they track down Suter and expose whoever is after him.  Timothy is really rattled, paranoid and scared, and there’s a homophobic policeman on their tail, the kind of incompetent Don eats for breakfast.

The story is more complex than the nefarious methods used by moral fundamentalists like ex Congresswoman Betty Krumfutz, only too believable with her ideological certainties, to influence a gullible electorate.  Don lectures Timmy on the nature of human folly and evil, bad or just weak people caught in their wicked ways.  Meanwhile Timothy sees a grand conspiracy reaching its tentacles everywhere they turn, threatening both their personal safety and the fundamental fabric of democratic society. 

There’s enough Don & Timmy interaction to satisfy my need for romance.  Together now for almost 20 years, they set each other’s pulses racing still.  Everyone warns Don about Jim Suter, with his dazzling good looks and golden ringlets the homophobe’s idea of a compulsively promiscuous gay man.  Has our hardboiled detective met his match? 

This is a contemporary thriller, shadowy figures exploiting human frailty to buy privilege and power for the few, ruthless in defence of self-interest…Machiavellian princes rule, OK.  The best of human nature symbolised by the AIDS quilt makes a good contrast.  Don Strachey, like Dave Brandstetter in Hansen’s later novels, is becoming a bit of a dinosaur.  It’s a lot harder to catch the bad guys and make them pay.  And Don has his own very human weakness...

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