The stage is the Crescent City; the script, blackmail and murder; the director of the action, Chanse MacLeod, ex-cop and private investigator who is embroiled in a case where prostitution and extortion crawl into bed together and end up with his client, Mike Hansen, taking a nap of the eternal variety.
Mike was a hustler who managed to leave more than a few enemies behind him, providing for a healthy list of reasonable suspects in the wake of his murder. Having retained Chanse’s services to investigate and discover who’s blackmailing his latest sugar daddy, a very married and very closeted and very prominent man, Mike ends up with a bullet in his chest for the trouble, along with an epitaph written in his own blood that has many in the gay community believing his death was the result of a hate crime.
Without a client, Chanse is technically no longer on the case, but his investigative instincts don’t allow for him to avoid doing some sleuthing of his own, apart from the police investigation. What he discovers is a gay rights activist with a political agenda, an upstairs neighbor of Mike’s with more than a few secrets, a string of jilted lovers, the identity of Mike’s illicit lover, and a prostitution ring that extorts money from its wealthy and closeted clients.
There are a couple of key factors that weighed heavily in my opinion of Murder in the Rue Dauphine, the first being that I didn’t find Chanse to be a terribly dynamic narrator, which I suppose is always a risk when writing a book in the first person narrative. He was a fairly one dimensional, somewhat egocentric, shallow, and cynical protagonist, though that part of his personality aligns perfectly with his line of work. If you’re a good detective, everyone has to be a suspect until they can prove they have an alibi.
The second issue I had was with the writing itself. I’m not sure whether it was a conscious stylistic choice on the part of the author, or whether it was purely incidental, but a large majority of the book is written in short, choppy sentences, which makes Chanse seem rather ineloquent and interrupted the fluidity of the narrative with its near constant breaks. It wasn’t an issue throughout the entire book, but it was enough of one to make it feel as though I’d be cruising along at a decent speed, only to come to a traffic jam where I was forced to stop, inch forward a bit, only to have to stop again. It disrupted the pace and made it extremely difficult for me to stay focused on the story.
What did work for me, and what has me conflicted about how aggressively I would (or wouldn’t) consider recommending this book was the mystery itself, and the related investigation. The way in which the initial crime and its aftermath affected Chance, and the gay community as a whole, was a good juxtaposition to what really lay behind it. There were also enough red herrings to initially keep me guessing at the identity of the killer, which was nice, and when that person is finally revealed, I found both the perpetrator and the motives for the crime to be plausible.
Another highlight was the relationship between Chanse and his best friend Paige Tourneur (funny name for a journalist and aspiring author), who spend a fair amount of time together during the investigation, much of that time spent getting stoned. Their friendship was established prior to the start of the book but felt genuine, nonetheless, and I enjoyed their interactions with each other.
So, I’d recommend this one with some reservations, especially if the things that were issues for me are a factor for you as well. Of course, if you’re looking for romance, you’ll want to give this one a miss altogether. There isn’t one, though there is a boyfriend; he’s just not a role player in the story.
Buy Murder in the Rue Dauphine HERE.