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by Dorien Grey
GLB Publishers, November 2001
237 pages
ISBN: 1879194791

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It was a pleasure for me to be able to renew my acquaintance with the writing of Dorien Grey as well as his gay protagonist, Dick Hardesty, so soon after reading THE BUTCHER'S SON.

Dick Hardesty quit his employment with the public relations company for which he was working in THE BUTCHER'S SON. Now he has set himself up in business as a private investigator -- he enjoys solving puzzles. His personal life leaves a lot to be desired, as he frankly admits to his readers. He is going through his 'slut phase', sleeping with anyone who attracts him even though he may not remember their name the next time they meet.

While business is gradually picking up, in large part because of referrals from the Bar Guild, who had benefited from his work in the first novel, Hardesty still has plenty of free time on his hands. When Barry Comstock, owner of the bath house Rage and sometime pornographer and actor, contacts Dick, requesting his help with an unspecified problem, the investigator is happy to assist.

Once Dick actually meets Comstock, he is rather less happy. The Rage owner is a rude, unpleasant and intolerant fellow. He has been receiving threatening 'bitch' letters. He needs to know the identity of the writer and prevent threats to his precious person becoming a reality.

Hardesty is called upon by Comstock's lawyer partner to investigate a murder. Not long thereafter another murder occurs, similar to the first, where a gay man who has been extremely unpleasant to gays is the corpse. While the investigator is not unhappy to have such men removed from the community, he is less than content at the means by which they have been eliminated.

Dick meets Jared, a delivery man of superb appearance as well as brain -- he is working on his PhD thesis. Jared offers his help in the investigation as he is in a position to question bar staff all over the town. Jared offers other services -- although not a relationship -- as well, and Dick accepts all offers.

As the body count mounts, it becomes obvious to Dick that someone is present in bars when some men are made the butts of others' cruelty. The murder victims are always people of a similar stamp to Comstock, who just happen to exhibit their sadistic tendencies in crowded bars. But how will Hardesty sort through the crowds of gay men in order to arrive at the perpetrator?

The reader needs to have a sharp eye to discern the murderer in this book. There are, be warned, red herrings swimming through the plot. Grey does nothing to decrease my admiration for his inventiveness and writing ability. His characterisation is, once again, eminently credible and his ability to include shocks is undiminished. Once more, a word of warning: be prepared for scenes of explicit sex -- although one supposes that modern readers are well-equipped to cope with these regardless of their own orientation.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, October 2004

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