Megan Casey reviews The Lavender House Murder by Nikki Baker

The Lavender House Murder by Nikki Baker cover

The second installment of the Virginia Kelly mystery series finds Ginny and her friend Naomi vacationing in Provincetown. Both are having girlfriend problems and simply need a break from their daily grind. But soon after they arrive, a famous lesbian journalist is killed in an alley. Seems that the woman was a gay rights advocate who believed that outing other LGBT folk—especially white-collar ones—was for their own good and the good of the cause. Now who would want to murder her? Well, the list is a long one.

The list should also be long for people who should read this book. Like In the Game, it has adventure, romance, and some of the best internal dialogue anywhere. Virginia Kelly, financial analyst by day and cruising lesbian by night, waxes poetic about her failing relationship with her lover Em. “There seems to be an irresistible force that causes all my relationships to self-destruct after a prescribed number of years. A kind of siren song that makes me want to hurl myself over the precipice into infidelities and deceit. And “What I wanted was a woman as flexible as builder’s putty to fill in the empty spaces in my life. I wanted a woman as large as a circus tent to wrap around me and keep me safe . . . to make a home for me in the ugly world. ” I can go on and on about Baker’s writing skills. Here’s a description of one of the suspects: “Her face had taken too much sun on its way to middle age, and her eye makeup was pastel blue. It was a school of beauty that had lost out in recent years to realism.” Ginny is sardonic, almost jaded—interesting but odd traits for a woman under 30. Through her introspection, The Lavender House Murders becomes not so much a question of finding a murderer, but of finding out about the world and solving questions in her own life.

While staying within Ginny’s point of view, the first half of the novel flashes back and forth between her and Naomi’s arrival in Provincetown, and Ginny’s discovery of the body a day or so later. It is tricky writing, but she pulls it off grandly. Baker’s cast of characters—all lesbians except for the obligatory gruff police officers—are varied and well-drawn, although a little clichéd at times. Ginny and Naomi are unique and thoroughly engaging, as is the lifestyle the author pictures with fine detail.

A similar book—one about a lesbian Bed & Breakfast in a coastal vacation spot—Death at Lavender Bay, was probably influenced by The Lavender House Murder. Even the titles are similar. This one is way better. In fact, this book was better than the excellent first novel in the series. Stay tuned for my review of the third next month at this time.

For over 250 Lesbian Mystery reviews by Megan Casey, see her website at http://sites.google.com/site/theartofthelesbianmysterynovel/  or join her Goodreads Lesbian Mystery group at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries

 


Megan G reviews Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Sophie Bishop was clean when her best friend Mina was murdered before her eyes. She’d been clean for nine months, two weeks, and six days. Not that the police or her parents believe her, especially considering the evidence to the contrary found in her jacket pocket. Everybody thinks that Mina’s death was a drug deal gone wrong, but Sophie knows different. She knows Mina was murdered; what she doesn’t know is why. But now that she’s out of a stint in rehab that she didn’t need, she’s determined to find out.

Published back in 2014, Far From You was not originally marketed as an LGBTQ+ novel. The blurb on the back gives no explicit indication that Mina and Sophie shared any form of romantic attachment, other than a cryptic mention of a “secret” they share. Despite all this, Far From You does not read like a typical “gay plot twist” novel, because that is not the point. Mina and Sophie’s relationship is hinted throughout the book, and explicitly revealed about 40% of the way through. The point of the novel is Sophie trying to solve the murder of the girl she loved. There is no double plot twist where we find out who murdered Mina and that she and Sophie were lovers at the same time. All things considered, it could have been dealt with a lot worse.

Because of the inherent plot of the novel, I’m sure you won’t be surprised by the warning that this book deals with a dead lesbian. It also deals with a character who is a drug addict, having become addicted to pain killers during her recovery from a traumatic car accident, which left her permanently disabled. This second aspect of the novel, while dealt with in depth, does not mention that not all people who take this type of narcotics will become addicted to them (and the author, Tess Sharpe, is aware of this and has discussed it on her twitter). So, if this is a trigger point for you, I would recommend avoiding this novel. Tess Sharpe has also talked about the problematic aspects of the dead lesbian trope on her twitter (though I am having trouble finding the link to that thread right now). Hearing her talk about these issues is actually what encouraged me to give this book a try. Knowing the author is aware of the problematic aspects of her stories makes me more interested in reading them, as I know that any future writing will most likely avoid those same tropes.

A couple more warnings about this novel include some ableist language (mostly spoken by a disabled person about herself), and a lack of diversity in the characters. It is set in a small town, so the fact that nobody’s skin colour is described heavily implies complete whiteness. As well, there are no fat characters, or any character’s that live outside the gender binary. Again, this can be explained by the small-town setting, but still bears mentioning. There is also some explicit violence, and [major spoiler warning] talks of a sexual relationship between an underage girl and an adult. [end spoiler]

I’m a lover of all murder mystery, and that aspect of this novel did not disappoint. I love when I cannot guess who the murderer is, especially since, after all the murder mysteries I’ve read, I tend to suspect everybody. This time, I was caught off guard. The second plot twist was a little less shocking to me, as I felt [minor spoiler warning] that the character wasn’t as developed, and therefore the reveal made less of an impact. Still, Sharpe does a fantastic job of slowly unraveling the mystery, and keeping you guessing until the very last moment.

The characters are fantastic. Fleshed out and flawed. Sophie makes for an incredibly dynamic lead. I was happy that her disability is continuously dealt with throughout the book, instead of shoved under the rug or forgotten. She also makes for a fantastic witness in a murder mystery, considering how unreliable she is based on her drug problems. Of course, if that weren’t the case the police would have solved the mystery a lot sooner, but what would be the fun in that? Also, I find it very important to point out that Sophie explicitly calls herself bisexual, which surprised me for a book that wasn’t originally marketed as queer.

Overall, this book is fantastically written, and provides a host of dynamic (though, admittedly, homogenous) characters. It is emotional and will probably have you reaching for the tissues more than once, as it’s portrayal over the grief of losing someone you love (especially someone nobody knew you loved) is incredibly real. Head the warnings, but if you enjoy YA fiction, and murder mysteries, as well as well-developed bisexual characters (who also happen to be disabled!), then definitely give this book a try. I promise it will make you smile, even as it breaks your heart.

 

Susan reviews Piper Deez and the Case of the Winter Planet by M. Fenn

Piper Deez and the Case of the Winter Planet is a hardboiled scifi mystery by M. Fenn; Piper Deez is sent to investigate thefts on a mining planet owned by the clan that she serves, where there are definitely no factions, no bubbling undercurrents of resentment, and only a few murders.

Hello, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, lesbian detective fiction is where I live. Piper Deez and the Case of the Winter Planet was always going to be my jam.

The world building is quite cool, and has some interesting imagery – I felt a bit blinded with science at first, but once the story finds its stride it’s easier to enjoy the imagery of a tiny town huddling beneath a permanent ice storm and unpick the politics at play. I also find it a cool distinction in the world building that there is a specific difference between being married and being monogamous, as the default appears to be polyamory in this setting.

Plus, I did like that it tried to talk about class privilege in this universe – there are multiple clans, which have a definite hierarchy, and I enjoyed the discussions of smaller clans unionising to gain more bargaining power. Making Piper Deez a member of a more prestigious clan is an interesting choice however, as it gives her more privilege (and ability to get her job done, or protect people) than I expected from a hardboiled investigator. It does engage with it a little, but it mostly seems to be “Piper hates using the power of her clan but does when it would help her,” which is appropriate for the setting… And kinda nice to see for a queer woman of colour, actually. (And yes, people without clans are treated exactly as well as you expect from all this.)

I found this to be part of the interesting spins on the hardboiled detective tropes – Piper Deez is a newly-wed who is very upfront that she used to be into casual sex before she got married, but is now monogamous, and she actually (tries to) stick to that even in the face of the classic femme fatale, which is honestly more than I expected of a pulp detective. (Her wife doesn’t show up in the story, but is mentioned a lot and with genuine fondness.) And as I said, she’s not only gainfully employed, but she’s actually coming into this story from a position of (relative) privilege, which is fascinating.

The mystery itself is a lot of fun, and it was honestly nice to see a story where the protagonist did reach out to others for help and received it without immediate betrayal. There were aspects that didn’t feel quite built up enough, but they were close enough to genre conventions that I could roll with it – police corruption and harassment are a staple of the genre, so the scenes of look closer, not everything is as it seems weren’t exactly a surprise. On the other hand, the last third felt quite rushed in terms of reveals, consequences, and how the actual ending went down; I had my suspicions about who was behind everything but even with that I was left going “Wait, no, slow down, shouldn’t you talk to someone about this reveal —?”

But it worked! Piper Deez and the Case of the Winter Planet was a short and pulpy mystery, and while the ending didn’t quite gel together for me, I really enjoyed it rolling familiar tropes into a sci fi setting.

This review was based on a copy provided by the author.

[Caution warnings: partner abuse, abuse of power, police harassment, oppression]

Susan is a library assistant who uses her insider access to keep her shelves and to-read list permanently overflowing. She can usually be found writing for Hugo-winning media blog Lady Business or bringing the tweets and shouting on twitter.

Whitney D-R reviews Motor Crush Volume 1

Domino Swift lives Nova Honda, a city where almost everyone lives and breathes racing.  You’re either a sponsored racer in the World Grand Prix or racing at night against biker gangs.

If you’re Domino Swift, you do both.

From the very first page, you’re rooting for Domino.  You want her to “crush” the competition, even if you’re first introduced to Domino when she’s racing a slew of biker gangs– and kicking all their butts.  These night races, called cannonballs, are a new definition of racing for pinks.  Instead of the pink slips to cars one would win at the end of a race, Domino is racing for a neon pink substance called crush.  Crush is mostly used to give a biker’s engine a boost, but Domino needs it to survive.

Domino must lead a double life and it causes contention with the people she loves, namely her ex-girlfriend, Lola.  (Though I hope they’ll get back together in the next volume.) Even though they’re not together, you can tell the love is still there between them.  Domino still tries to protect Lola when she’s get in trouble with some loan sharks.  They initially broke up because Domino kept Lola in the dark about her nightly activities and who she really is.  Lola wanted an all-open, honest relationship with Domino or nothing at all.  But how can Domino be honest when she doesn’t even know who she is or where she came from?

How can you tell the woman you’re in love with that when you take a neon drug meant for motors, you become one with the speed force?  Is she some human-machine hybrid?

There’s more questions than answers so far in this series, but you’ll be instantly sucked into to this high-stakes world.  The art is vivid and gorgeous, the storyline easy to follow, and I can’t wait for the next volume.


Megan Casey reviews A Quiet Death by Cari Hunter 

One of the reasons I read books is that I don’t like to watch TV. So it’s not necessarily a compliment when I say that A Quiet Death could easily be made into an episode of Broadchurch: death among dark and brooding scenery. But because of the shared point of view of the two main protagonists, it’s like watching a mixture of Broadchurch and Grey’s Anatomy.

Don’t get me wrong, this book has the same grittiness and excitement as the first—somehow I missed the second—maybe too much the same. In this book—as in No Good Reason—an abused girl or woman escapes from captivity only be found either badly injured or dead on the rugged slopes of the Dark Peak area of North England. As in the first book, the story starts out a bit slowly but revs up after a few chapters.

The rotating chapters between Sanne Jensen, a police detective, and her girlfriend Meg Fielding, a doctor specializing in emergency room medicine, are not only interesting in themselves but often act as brief respites between some of the horrors that are almost continually revealed. The fact that they end up intertwining is also a big plus. It took a lot of thought and good writing to accomplish that.

Sanne and Meg, lifelong friends who dated occasionally, have finally decided that they want to be a real couple, although they still prefer to have separate residences. They are kind of a model couple, but for some reason scenes from their domestic life are a lot less interesting than their chapters apart (kind of like when Mary Beth Lacey goes home to her husband at the end of her shift). In fact, the first chapter was so bland I found myself wondering how I could have liked the first book so much. Yes, it gave the reader information on the two main characters, but it was information that could have been worked in elsewhere.

But it got better quickly and Hunter’s agenda—this time it is sex trafficking and sex slavery—is not only horrifying, but important. Bravo for bringing this subject to everyone’s attention. Repeating another theme from the first book, the local scenery plays an important part of the book, as does Sanne’s familiarity with it. And one last similarity to the first book: one of the characters gets trapped alone with bad guys, but it happens by accident, not stupidity, like you see in so many other similar books. Formulaic? Well, yes. Kind of like those TV shows I mentioned earlier. But here’s another kudo, the author has cut down her use of the word “grin” from 31 times in the first book to only 10 in this one. It would be interesting to know how many times she uses it in the second book. Anyone?

It’s hard to think of giving this book less than 4 stars, so I won’t. But I did have reservations about a couple of things. First, a third character—Sanner’s supervisor—gets several of her own point of view sections. For me, this is an artistic hiccup that means the author has taken the easy way round. I don’t believe that Penny Mickelbury or Gina L. Dartt—who also have dual protagonists—would introduce a third point of view just because some scenes might take place without either of the main characters being present. And the several confusions about how to pronounce Sanne’s name gets old very quickly.

The writing is better than average, but not exceptional. The good lines—“I have a meeting at stupid o’clock” —are matched by poor or overwritten ones—“She took a moment to curse every deity known to man, plus a few more she’d made up.”

In any case, this one is recommended for all readers, but especially for those who are trying to wean themselves from too much TV. CSI Derbyshire, anyone?

Note1:  This book was just named the winner of the 2017 Rainbow Award.

Note 2: I  read a review copy of this novel, which was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley.

Note 3: See my full reviews of over 250 other Lesbian Mystery novels at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries

Megan Casey reviews Only Lawyers Dancing by Jan McKemmish

I’ve had to create a new shelf for this one called Lesbian Crime Fiction. There is a lot of crime in this book, and a couple of lesbians, but nobody actually solves a mystery or a puzzle. At least, I don’t think they do. The fact is that Only Lawyers Dancing is so literary that it’s often difficult to follow the thread of the several stories that are going on simultaneously. The author uses first person present point of view not only for Frances Smith, the lesbian protagonist, but also for her co-protagonist, Anne Stevens, a straight woman. And for Anne’s boyfriend Harry, who may or may not be a mobster. But she also goes into third person at times, but told as if one of the other characters is relating it. And stream of consciousness abounds.

Anne and Frances are very old friends from two very different backgrounds. Anne’s father was a policeman while Frances’ was a crime boss. One of he recurring narratives in this book is a crime that took place over two decades earlier—one that eventually led to Anne’s father having a nervous breakdown. But despite the fact that these murders are referred to again and again, they seem to have no relation to the rest of the book, which is mostly concerned with a well-known hit man named Max hiring Anne to make him look good in court. The rest of the book deals with various criminals connected to Max and their relationships to both Anne and Frances.

But McKemmish did not write Only Lawyers Dancing for the plot or the story. She did it because she loved writing and the opportunities it often offers to bend genres. She wrote it because she loved words and the many possibilities they give to communicate ideas in different ways. Think of a hybrid between the prefaces to the chapters in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Michelangelo Antonioni’s classic movie Blow-Up, and Clare Sudbury’s odd crime novel The Dying of Delight. But don’t really expect things to make sense. The author knows exactly what she is doing and isn’t shy about letting us know it. “The trouble is you keep expecting it to make sense, like a serial moving tortuously slow through the labyrinth of side plots and byways toward an order, a clarity, a closed book.”

In some places the writing is pretentious, in others it is engaging and downright brilliant. Like, “ . . .the new week looms like a mountain in the mist when you’re on a cheap-fare-to-Europe aeorplane and hoping, hoping hoping that the radar works.” But there is murder, embezzlement, theft, and even a kidnapping on the way to denouement. It’s not certain what satisfaction the characters get from all this, but we can only hope they all live happily ever after. I give it 4 stars.

For over 250 other Lesbian Mystery reviews by Megan Casey, see her website at http://sites.google.com/site/theartofthelesbianmysterynovel/  or join her Goodreads Lesbian Mystery group at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries

Marthese reviews A Harvest of Ripe Figs by Shira Glassman

‘’Not everybody reads encyclopaedias for fun’’

A Harvest of Ripe Figs is the third book in the Mangoverse series. It takes place a bit after the epilogue in the second book. I loved this book so much I binge read it.

This book combines two genres which I love: fantasy and mystery. Shulamit and her family have settled with what happened at the end of  book two . Things are quiet, and indeed, the plot does not revolve much around Shula’s group drama! A violin/fiddle of importance gets stolen (I’m still confused about the difference between a violin and a fiddle!) and Shulamit uses her intellect and deduction skills along with some help from her family to discover what happened to it.

During the mystery, it comes out that Shula is a good interrogator (no torture involved–don’t worry) while Riv stops a lot of bullshit – which I loved. Isaac is smug but helpful and Aviva is supportive and introspective. There is a lot of gender talk and criticism of stereotypes.

I liked the down to business element. For example Riv may be attracted to Isaac but she focuses on her job first. There is no ‘but they couldn’t help themselves’ element.

The accepting diversity is what draws me to this series and in this book, there is very minor ace representation (like blink and you miss it; but I appreciated that it was there).

There is also young trans representation! Aviva sums it up perfectly ”That’s the boy who exists. Anything else is a story” and although Shula doesn’t get it at first, she is very protective of her people. Indeed, she’s a great leadership example (despite it being not a democracy). Shula has plans for giving more females more power in her city. She’s ok with sharing power.

Another thing that was super squee worthy for me was the mention of pests and tropical plants. At the moment, I’m working on a campaign for fair and sustainable tropical fruit (make fruit fair) so it’s something that I became familiar with. The pests are a real problem to our food security and farmers’ livelihoods and Shula really cares about her farmers – the backbone of Perach.

Shula is all about responsibility -whether her own of the wrongdoers responsibility. Wish the world was more like that.

The word ‘Feminism’ is actually used! Women supporting women is also another feature of the book. There was lots of body positivity – especially surrounding maternity and different sizes.

There’s also an example of a toxic relationship and an entitled ‘nice guy’ who wants to be the center of attention and expects things for his ‘sacrifices’. This is dealt with rather than ignored or condoned.

Apart from all the simply narrated but complex topics, it’s simply a fun read. There are some funny elements like the stories about Riv – which turn out pretty helpful in the end.

For me, a good mystery isn’t necessarily complex but it must be clean and rounded-up. Things that were mentioned throughout find their use in the conclusion to the mystery and so for me, while predictable it’s a good mystery.

There were many metaphors also about ripening and maturing – people developing and becoming more themselves. Of course, much food talk as well which I came to expect from this series.

What I wanted to see was Kaveh and his companion again (see I even forgot his name). They were mentioned but in passing. Would have been good if they visited or had visible correspondence at least; considering that they are family.

All in all, it’s a fun read. Fluffy-ish fantasy without too much drama. The pages just seemed to scroll by. I was already used to the world and the characters and it was an enjoyable and fun read. While it may seem an easy read, it still points critically to problems in our society and speaks about different issues.


Megan G reviews Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Sue Trinder has been brought up to be a fingersmith – a petty thief. She lives with a baby “farmer” named Mrs. Sucksby, who has raised her as her own. One day, a man known to Sue as Gentleman arrives at Mrs. Sucksby’s house to enlist Sue’s help in a plot to gain the fortune of a lady. Sue is to be the maid of the lady, Maud Lilly, and convince her to marry Gentleman, after which they will abandon her to a madhouse. With the promise of a share of the lady’s fortune, Sue embarks on a journey away from the home she’s always known, unknowingly entering into a game far more dangerous than she could have expected.

Over the past few years, I’ve sometimes felt like I am the only queer woman in the world who has not read Fingersmith (or any Sarah Waters’ novels, for that matter). Well, maybe not the only one, but one of a handful. After years residing on my dauntingly large “to-read” list, I finally managed to pick it up, and oh, was it worth the wait!

Mystery is possibly my favourite genre, and Fingersmith delivered more than I could have hoped. I knew it would be a twisty tale, but I did not realize going into it just how many twists and turns the story would take. Every time I felt I’d just regained my footing after a plot twist, Waters threw another at me. Some were a little predictable, others caught me completely off-guard. Because of how many mystery novel’s I’ve read in my life, let me tell you, that is a pretty hard thing to do.

The love story is subtle, but poignant. There are very few explicit mentions of the women’s feelings toward each other until the end of the novel, and even then, it is dealt with in a way true to its time. Still, you can’t miss the obvious love these two women feel for each other, and despite all the deception and backstabbing they involve each other in, you can’t help but root for them. [Major spoiler] I also have to mention how wonderful it was to see a story like this end on a hopeful note for its lesbian protagonists. It would have been very easy for Waters to write their feelings off as a fluke, or to have them move on from one another, but instead she gives the reader, and the women, hope. It was refreshing, and allowed the story to end on a hopeful note, something I didn’t think would be possible [end spoilers].

If you have not read Fingersmith yet, I highly encourage you to do so. Although not technically considered one, I would easily classify Fingersmith as a classic. That being said, it is not without it’s warnings. There is a lot of explicit ableism and abuse (one extended scene of abuse taking place in an asylum had me cringing the entire time I read it). There are hints of rape, and very strong implications of a pedophilic relationship, as well as of pedophilic feelings from several men. [Major spoiler] A young woman is made to read sexually explicit stories aloud to men from a young age. As well, a character heavily implied to be gay dies in a very violent way [end spoilers].

If these are all things you can look past, I strongly encourage you to pick up Fingersmith if you can. Trust me, if you’re like me and haven’t read it before, you will be so happy that you did.


Megan Casey reviews Butch Fatale: Dyke Dick by Christa Faust

Butch is the quintessential hand-to-mouth PI in LA. Her first client in a while is a butch lesbian like herself who hires her to find out why her girlfriend has left her and gone back into the prostitution trade. Murders ensue and characters are introduced, described, questioned, and usually fucked until Butch finds herself pointed in the right direction to solve the case.

Faust, who seems to have done it all, is a professional writer who rarely makes mistakes. She has a curiously masculine style of writing. Either that or she is successful in masculinizing Butch’s first-person point of view without in any way making her seem like a man. The mystery is a good one, going from one clue to another logically and building up suspense along the way.

Despite these good things, I can’t shake the idea that Faust wrote the novel primarily because she came up with the name Butch Fatale. The fact that—unlike most of her other books—Butch Fatale is available as an e-book only (despite the fact that releasing it as a paperback would cost her virtually nothing) makes me think that Faust is tossing the book off as something insignificant. Or as a kind of joke. More disturbing still is the possibility that she intended it as a parody of a hard-boiled detective novel using a butch lesbian as the detective to give it more humor.

This is unfortunate because Butch is a winning and likeable character. In fact, she’s someone I wouldn’t mind hanging out with as long as bullets weren’t flying around our heads the whole time. The novel could have been a top-notch lesbian mystery and probably one of the best of these featuring a PI. Trouble is, we never really know whether the book is meant to be in any way serious. Maybe I’m not the best person so judge this because I have notoriously little sense of humor but this book goes from a nail biter to a Keystone Cops routine at the drop of a hat. In the climactic last scene, Faust goes completely over the top, creating a chase scene that would probably have a TV audience chuckling, but leaving this serious reader scratching her head.

Another problem is that Faust seems obsessed with showing Butch having sex with virtually everyone she meets except her secretary (see Mannix, James Bond, Cormoran Strike, etc.), who is really the only one who loves her. This randiness would almost pass muster, at least for the first half of the book, but when she continues to undress woman after woman—even under threat of death, even after she takes a bullet—it gets old and occupies too much of the narrative. Is this overuse of sex a spoof of something? Maybe, but there are very few lesbian mystery characters who act in a similar manner.

I suspect—and this is of course my opinion only—Faust decided to make Butch Fatale a humorous , almost ridiculous Phillip Marlowe instead of a PI that would stand tall in the pantheon of lesbian literature. Either that, or she changed her mind about what the book was supposed to be a couple of times as she was writing it. There is a great danger that some readers will consider Butch to be the butt of a novel-long joke, which is disrespectful to both the character and to lesbian mysteries in general. Humor is fine, but not ridicule. Too bad. Give it a 3 for the professional writing and hope that a second novel in the series gives Butch the respect she deserves and maybe a little more backstory. I will be waiting, and at a reasonable price, I will be a willing reader.

For over 250 other Lesbian Mystery reviews by Megan Casey, see her website at http://sites.google.com/site/theartofthelesbianmysterynovel/  or join her Goodreads Lesbian Mystery group at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries


Megan Casey reviews Addict by Matt Doyle

Popular lesbian author Lori L. Lake has an interesting essay on pseudonyms and the reasons writers choose to use them. Oddly, she fails to discuss the use of pen names in lesbian mysteries. The omission is even more unusual because “Lori L. Lake” is, in fact, itself the pseudonym of a writer of lesbian mysteries. I don’t know her reason for using a pseudonym, but a number of other lesbian writers are simply afraid to be outed as lesbians, either at work or with their families. Nikki Baker is one of these, as is current superstar Lee Winter.

Then there are other writers—like Lake—who use pseudonyms for reasons unknown: Kate Allen, Radclyffe, Jae, Rose Beecham, Ellen Hart, and on and on. I’m sure that most of these women have good reasons for using false names to write under. But think of how different the reasons must be for a man.

As far as I know, Matt Doyle, who wrote Addict, is the author’s real name. But if that is true, it puts him in a very small category. My research shows that only a few male writers of lesbian mysteries use their real names—not including initials: Charles Atkins (a prolific author with many other books), David Galloway (a supposed literary writer), Mark McNease (whose lesbian sleuth is a spinoff from his popular gay detective series), Samuel L. Steward (whose two books about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas are as much literary reminiscences as they are mysteries), and Jason Halstead (another prolific author with many titles).

J.T. Langdon and R.E. Conary are also men, but as far as I know, they use their real initials and their real last names. N.H. Avenue also uses initials, but his last name is also not his real one. A pertinent question is this: how many male writers of lesbian mysteries use female pseudonyms, and why? The answer to the first is ‘I don’t know,” and I may never know. But the answer to the second is obvious. Anyone who has read more than a handful of reviews knows 1. that most readers of lesbian mysteries are not only women, but also lesbians and 2. that many—not all and maybe not even most—lesbians want to read books by lesbians about lesbians. Period. They would pass up a lesbian mystery written by a man without even reading the blurb. Truth, folks.

I happen to believe that a good writer can write about either sex. Henry James wrote Daisy MillerThe Princess Cassamassima, and What Maisie Knew.Thomas Hardy wrote Tess of the Durbervilles, George Eliot wrote Silas Marner. I’m sure I don’t have to go any further because the list is endless. There is no reason why a man can’t write good lesbian fiction, but if they want to be rated based on the fiction rather than their gender, it’s probably pays to write under a female pseudonym.

Okay, let’s get to the review. Would my opinion of Addict be different if it were written by someone named Martha Doyle? Probably not, but the faults of the book are more with the story than with the characters. Like Jason Halstead’s Kat Wimple series, Addict is set in the future. Unlike Halstead’s books though, Addict doesn’t really feel like its set in the future. For one thing, his protagonist, Cassie Tam, doesn’t really like modern conveniences; she likes real blinds, for instance and normal furniture. You’ll find very little Blade Runner futureism here. The few futuristic things he mentions, like tech shifting and online addiction, are light on description. Cassie’s “protector,” a robot gargoyle named Bert, night must as well be a man or, as I have seen elsewhere, “a man substitute” whose job is to rescue Cassie. Even the modern city of New Hopeland—which I assume is meant to be something like the new city Elon Musk has envisioned creating—is given short shrift in its description. If something takes place in the future, we are going to need a lot more creation and a lot more description.

The mystery is quite a good one in theory, but on paper it seems overly—and unsatisfactorily—explicated. In other words, it’s hard to figure out what’s actually going on, even if we are told over and over. It’s the old showing instead of telling bugaboo. The author’s explanation of the mystery takes longer to tell than the denouement, and even that is dependent on our old friend, the seemingly normal person who is actually a criminally insane religious fanatic. In addition, the reasoning and execution of the crime is so convoluted that all you can do it blink and turn the page.

And I guess Cassie is a lesbian; she says she is and at the very end of the book she may even think about asking someone out. But again, she is a permutation of another of our old friends, a lesbian on the run from a bad relationship and terrified of being hurt a second time—although in this case, her old relationship is described as a good one and as far as I can tell without rereading, she wasn’t dumped by her ex. Oh well. In any case, the author is content with Cassie not having a real relationship. It is easier that way. Yet again, for lesbian readers this choice is far from satisfactory.

So regardless of the gender of the author, Addict is not something I can recommend. At less than 56,000 words, it is about 20,000 words too short. And those words could have been used to very good advantage to spruce up—and possibly eliminate—the problems.

Note: I received a review copy of this book that was kindly provided by the author in e-book form through Lesbrary.

For over 250 other Lesbian Mystery reviews by Megan Casey, see her website athttp://sites.google.com/site/theartofthelesbianmysterynovel/  or join her Goodreads Lesbian Mystery group at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries