It gets a little bit too convoluted in solving the mystery, in order to bring in a bunch of red herrings and implicate several different characters That made it frustrating, and not quite as smooth a read for me as the earlier books It s still enjoyable, but not a favourite.
originally posted here.
BR with la bella This one had Dave chasing his tail and me chasing after him Everyone had a motive for murder, everyone had possibility and than WHAM All done in Hansen s usual impeccable succinct style as always.
On the personal side Dave is still chasing, not so sure where he is His relationship with his father keeps unfolding bit by bit Not so easy to have it cut and dried label something and put it in a box People are complicated.
BR with Rosa Some rambly thoughts on the 4th Brandstetter novel.
This is a good series I don t know why it took me so long to start reading it despite being aware of it for decades and the general lack of non self pitying lgbt fic back in the day That said, this is by far the cheesiest installment in the series so far By the end of the novel, which in the kindle edition I read comes along surprisingly at 85%, it seems practically the entire population of whatever rando town this takes place in must have simultanously decided to come have it out with our dead police chief in the interval between his murder and the police finding his body It s completely absurd and unbelievable.
Another absurd thing is the tendency of gay detectives to always end up solving gay crimes An argument might be made that this is a pleasant exception to that I don t think this is too spoilery but I ll tag it just in case, view spoiler the original suspect whom the police have wrongfully charged with the crime is a gay activist, but to the best of my recollection Brandstetter never even speaks to him, and starts from the assumption that he s innocent While Brandstetter interviews various other lgbt characters in the course of the investigation, the actual crime doesn t really turn out to involve any lgbt elements I kind of like that hide spoiler It s been a while since I read the first of these mysteries but they stand alone well, although series purists will want to follow the ongoing threads of Dave Brandstetter s life that parallel the mystery The original publication date was 1978, and the story is a reflection of the times The civil rights era is winding down from peak intensity but racial inequality threads through the story HIV has not yet raised its evil head gay rights are a breath of hope, a decade after Stonewall, but far from a foregone conclusion Against this backdrop, we again meet Dave Brandstetter, laconic insurance investigator, out to prove that the murder of a local police chief has not been solved by the arrest of the obvious suspect If it was one of the chief s nearest and dearest responsible, Dave can save his employer a lot of life insurance money in 1978 dollars , but most of all, Dave loves a puzzle The writing style is somehow both sparse and evocative, low on emotion but with undercurrents aplenty As Dave slogs through a complex case investigating the death of a man with plenty of enemies, including an estranged daughter, a mistress or two, and some questionable business connections he also is under life pressures His father is in the hospital, and may not survive His lover, Doug, continues to insist on an open relationship And there are gay men whose interactions with the dead police chief were far from friendly, including the obvious suspect, meaning that this gay investigator must decide how far and with whom to sympathize in his beleaguered community Dave is an interesting character He s come to terms with being gay, and yet he expresses discomfort with the flamboyant members of the gay community at times He s in a relationship that isn t satisfying to him, but he still inclines toward monogamy And Doug is also in a bit of crisis, dealing with an aging mother and immediate pressures, yet neither of them is quite present for the other in the simultaneous crises Dave wants to see justice done, as he faces a case where irredeemable injustice has already deeply damaged than one player The interactions of the personal and the puzzle make a fascinating but low key read.
Hansen s Brandstetter mysteries are highly enjoyable, easy to read, complex tales of social issues in the face of rich WASP male dominated Californian society Much like Mosley s Rawlins series these books are about crimes committed against minorities by the WASP types as well as by the minorities in reaction to their treatment by those despicable rich white dudes who have made the world such a shit place to live for everyone else That is the road Hansen has trodden almost by rote in his first three entries but, thankfully, this fourth one mixes things up a bit the bigotry and crimes against minority is still present, but this time it s a WASP on WASP crime that s the focus of the insurance investigation That his protagonist passes for a straight rich WASP type is a nice touch from Hansen, allowing him to observe the abhorrent behaviours from a position of trust, and adds a layer of discomfort for the reader as you are left empathising with Brandstetter who s only reaction is to brush this behaviour aside despite knowing the insults and assumptions would also be aimed at him It s strong stuff if you allow it be but due to Hansen s obvious skill at writing a compelling mystery can be read by the unobservant unaware as a straight detective piece This is why I keep coming back to this series.
The fourth adventure of death claims investigator David Brandstetter Sheriff Orton has been bludgeoned to death, but is the outrageous gay activist whose knapsack was found near the body really responsible There are many other suspects, including the adulterous sheriff s wife, the old school homosexual rights advocate, and the young black man the sheriff framed in a marijuana bust when he found the young man was dating his daughter Throw in some pre Columbian artifacts of mysterious provenance, and you ve got yourself a tangle of possibilities.
As I ve said before, I like these books for Brandstetter s hardboiled persona and the Southern California gay milieu than for the plots themselves I found this one particularly interesting for the tension it shows between traditional homosexual rights advocates lobbying quietly, accumulating votes and the in your face style of the the post Milk age running on to the senate floor and kissing legislators, for example As always, Brandstetter is undemonstrative and unapologetic in his sexual orientation, and this gives the book a quiet strength.
The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of by Joseph Hansen Henry Holt and Company 1978 My respect for Hansen deepens with every volume of his Dave Brandstetter series Brandstetter wasn t the first openly gay protagonist in a mystery series, but in many ways he s still the best This, his fourth volume, deals with the murder of a publicly admired but privately hated chief of police whose record as a defender of public decency is marred by his behind the scenes vigilantism Every Brandstetter tale is a watercolour of the California scene, painted to perfection, but with something malevolent hidden at its heart By the book s end, the watercolour has become a deftly interlocking puzzle, wherein every character has an overlapping motive for having wanted the victim dead, but it s not till the last piece is inserted that we realize who actually had the guts to go through with it.
Of course, Hansen had a personal motive for creating the series which, in his words, was to right some wrongs when it came to public perception of homosexuals But unlike many gay writers who followed, he let the message be secondary to the story, thereby ensuring the integrity of the work That Brandstetter is also an individual of rare integrity is beside the point Hansen was telling us what most of us know gays are no different from anyone else when it comes to portioning out vices and virtues No pity necessary, no applause required If we want to be respected for what we are, he seems to be saying, it will have to be because we aren t different, rather than because we are.