The P'Town Murders: A Bradford Fairfax Murder Mystery by Jeffrey Round
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this book a lot. It brought back pleasant memories of my trip to P’Town and the plot flowed well.
There seems to be certain sticking points for me in Jeffrey Round books, like in the most recent book Lake on the Mountain: A Dan Sharp Mystery, the character dislikes Toronto so much but hangs out there all the time and it pissed me off. In this book, there was:
“Unlike Justin, however, Brad found himself alone as he entered his thirties, the decade all gay men dread as a threshold to diminishing dates, shrinking hairlines, expanding waistlines, and a time of swapping disco for karaoke.”
I understand the sentiment but the word “all” bothered me, as I didn’t dread being 30. Who wants the insecurity of their 20’s back? These kinds of generalizations, about people in life, not in the book, get me stuck while reading.
There was more:
“Something deep within him made Brad long to share his life with another, even while he realized he might spend his remaining years on his own. Who really wanted to be the partner of a secret agent for a nameless security organization? No one he'd ever met. It demanded too much.”
This is another trick people tell themselves and I would have rather the author framed it as such. Who would want a single mother with three kids? Who would want someone over-weight? Who would want a secret agent? They’re all excuses.
Speaking also of secret agents, I found that aspect of the book, which was brief, thank goodness, a little too far-fetched. I much preferred Dan Sharp’s private investigator to this 007-lite organization.
Also, finally, the book gets a little too in its own head in parts, for example:
“Brad imagined two queens engaging in a fierce battle of style and one-upmanship: "Oh," says the first queen, hand-on-hip Bette Davis-style. "You haven't seen Hairspray—The Musical?" The effect on the rival queen would be as if she'd arrived at cocktail hour smelling like a barnyard, only to have her worst enemy point this out to everyone. "What do you mean, you haven't seen it?" Brad imagined the aggressor hurling at his hapless victim, the submissive M quivering at each harsh syllable. "What are you waiting for—the book?" cries the sadistic S. "Wherever did you get that dress—at a McDonald's jumble sale?" For shame! And comes the coup de grâce: "Who does your hair—Posturpedic?" At which the M would crumble. Coarse? Crude? Devastating? Yes, yes, and yes again. But such tactics, Brad knew, are not designed merely to intimidate and ridicule, crush and destroy. In fact, there are clues for those who will see. One has only to observe the clothing: is the intimidating S any more smartly dressed than his victim, the M? No! In fact, it might even be seen that a Wal-Mart queen is abusing one attired in perfect Bloomingdale's couture. So who is really in charge? Who the victim and who the perpetrator? Who abusing whom and why? The answers might surprise. But far from blaming the victim for the crime being visited upon him, it may even be observed that there is no crime at all. For herein lies the mystery, the subtle interchange of need that exists between the bull and the flag, between the dancer and the dance. For gay S & M, as Bradford knew, is not private play so much as public display. Here is role-playing as formal as anything to be found in Kabuki. It's not that it's fake—it's stylized! It's Über-gay!”
I didn’t really understand any of that and the whole thing could have been cut.
And the sex scene:
“From the moment they shed their clothes it was as if their bodies had become one. Zach played virtuosic first violin to Brad's mellow cello, winding fine lines of fancy around him. Together they were sweet music, Mozart ma non troppo and "The Lark Ascending," while below the earth awaited their rapturous return.”
If I hadn’t marked these things though, I don’t know that I would remember them. The book moves quickly, and:
“Suddenly the suspects were everywhere.”
From this point on, I was caught up in the charming Ruby and enjoyed all the ten or so suspects, I thought that was original, and didn’t know who it was until the very end.
The book covers loads of P’Town territory, starting with the fast ferry and continuing through Spirtus and even a shoot-out at the Pilgrim Monument. There’s engaging characters, like Ruby and Cinder, and Bradford himself is alright. Even a Rufus Wainwright joke sure to bring down the house.
I can’t wait to read the next one, I’m really glad I picked this up.
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