Everybody Was Afraid Of - Joseph Hansen
I enjoyed this Brandstetter novel a lot more than the last one. It seems to have had a real injection of life into it. Dave is wonderful throughout, and his relationship with Doug in such a mess that he breaks his monogamous beliefs for the first time in the series. Cecil, a young black reporter, brings just the right dose of life to this novel, and itís very nice to see Hansen having the confidence to tackle both race and gay issues in such a powerful, readable way.
As ever, thereís a death and an anxious family waiting for their insurance payout from Medallion life. But Daveís own life is complex now: his father lies dying in a hospital bed; his relationship with Doug almost over. Despite this, itís all work for Dave, as usual. He doesnít believe that the young gay radical in custody for the murder of the local, right-wing Chief of Police is guilty, and he sets out to prove it. As always, he uses the excuse of saving his company the insurance money to justify his obsessive need to solve these cases. But we see through this act by now. He cares passionately about right and wrong. He wants to see the guilty brought to justiceóespecially when they are bigots and homophobes. What I really like about Dave, though, is that he never lets this personal crusade become public. He never ever uses the gay card like Don Strachey does: none of the people he comes in contact with suspect heís gay (well, except Cecil, of course, but it would be kind of hard to hide given the nature of theirÖ investigations). And sometimes this aspect of Daveís character makes him seem a little bit cold (did some cruel reviewer of his last novel call him a cold fish?). Well, heís considerably thawed in this one, and I liked it the more for that.
Tall, rangy, blond and beautiful, Dave deserves some more happiness in his personal life. Heís a genuinely nice guy who hides his heartaches and puts his life on the line for the truth.
Iím desperate to read the next in the series now. I canít wait to see how the dreadful way Hansen left Daveís love life in this one plays out. And that must be the greatest accolade for any author or series.
Do give these novels a go.
When philandering bigot Police Chief Ben Orton is found with his head bashed in by a flowerpot, thereís no shortage of suspects.† His wife was fed up with Ortonís infidelities.† Estranged daughter Anita delighted in taunting her father with her unconventional lifestyle, no matter who got hurt. Lester Greer, the young black man who made the mistake of going out with Anita, was released from jail after doing time on a drugs bust set up by Orton.† Local gay rights campaigner Richard Nowell was no friend to the homophobic, all-powerful police chief.†
But the man in custody for the killing is Cliff Kerlee, publicity-seeking hothead and rival gay activist to Nowell, who publicly threatened to kill Orton.
Jerry Orton, who idolised his father, says itís an open and shut case. Dave Brandstetter has read the police report, and heís not buying Kerlee as the murderer.† What can one man expect to find that a whole department couldnít?† But nothing is ever routine to Dave.† Kerlee says he wasnít even at the crime scene, and the evidence against him is purely circumstantial.† Hector Rodriguez, Kerleeís partner, says he was with him and the police have no witness to say otherwise.† Orton was out on some business immediately before he died and no one knows what he was doing or who he was with.
Dave is more a lone wolf than Don Strachey.† He gets results by solid legwork, with a shrewd, often cynical, understanding of human nature.† As a gay man he knows not to accept anything at face value.†
He applies ruthless methodology to find the truth, no matter whose toes he steps on, working towards a dramatic climax where he faces great danger.† Time and place are beautifully realised:† the surf-washed coast and hot, dry canyons of early 70s California, the clash of hippy counter-culture and traditional, close-knit communities where everything isnít quite as peaceful as it seems.
Daveís life is at crisis point.† His father is in intensive care and not expected to survive.† The case is welcome respite from a bedside vigil though he feels guilty for not being there.† And the home situation with Doug (the man he met in Fadeout) goes from bad to worse.† Their apartment over the art gallery remains half-empty and they have separate bedrooms.† Not a good sign of mutual commitment.† Worse, Doug has a new distraction, Christian, a French-speaking Tahitian.†
That Dave isnít as bothered by this as he should be, indicates the relationship is probably over.† Eased by the presence of a new man in Daveís life, flamboyant black newsroom assistant Cecil, who turned up naked in Daveís motel room one night then never went away, staying around to help Dave on the case.† But Cecil is only 19- in Hard Time John gets sent down for having sex with a minor of the same age- and Dave must be around 47.
As the series progresses Iím falling deeper in love with Dave.† Itís not an easy, instant attraction, like Don Strachey.† Dave can be a cold fish.† He shut down emotionally after longterm partner Rod died.† He hoped Doug would give what he missed but itís never worked out.† He needs someone young and vibrant to bring him out and unlock his passion, and Iím crossing my fingers thatís Cecil. Weíve got to work at getting to know Dave but in a perverse way I get satisfaction from that. We see him only through the eyes of other characters.† Twice in this novel weíre told how beautiful he is, tall and lean and golden.† I love how heís so pleased about attracting Cecil!†
I've spent more of this review discussing Dave than the case.† That's the key to this series.† Hansen has space to develop his character, and through him to look at what it means to be gay, through three decades, from youth to old age.† I'm off to read the next book.† I confess I sneaked a peek at the next two to see if Cecil's name appears.† Very highly recommended.