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The Bell in the Fog, by Lev A.C. Rosen

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Evander “Andy” Mills is a gay man in 1950s San Francisco, trying to make a go of it as a private detective after having to leave the police force because of his sexuality. The queer community is not entirely ready to trust someone who has so recently been a cop, given how the police of the time treat them, but Andy is working on convincing them that he’s on their side, that his PI cases are for the protection of people like himself rather than exploiting his identity. He has some key allies at his beloved bar, Ruby’s–and maybe even a crush there.

But one of the very few people desperate enough to trust him to try to unravel a blackmail case turns out to be an old friend–an old flame–he hasn’t seen since his Navy days, and suddenly memories he’s tried to repress are relevant to his life again. And to the lives–and possibly deaths–of those in his community.

The Bell in the Fog is the best kind of historical mystery, drawing a vivid picture of its milieu and the people who inhabit it. It takes the time to consider what the shape of justice might be for people who are on the periphery of a society, rather than falling into the pattern of treating whodunnit as the only possible question. The characters are vivid not only as a virtue in itself but as a means to making the questions of the plot and its resolution more interesting–this is the stuff, friends, this is how mystery is supposed to work.

This is the second in a series, which has me all excited because it stood alone perfectly well and that means I have a first book to go back and read.

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