"Zero Break" (Neil S. Plakcy)In two-time Lambda Award finalist Plakcy’s sixth novel in his acclaimed Mahu series, gay detective Kimo Kanapa’aka and his detective partner Ray Donne investigate the murder of a young lesbian mother in an apparent home invasion. They follow up on all the "mokes and titas", aka the usual suspects, and uncover a tangled web leading to the real motive -- one that involves a secret marriage between the woman’s ex-partner and the husband of their twin daughters, an ex-con boyfriend, and an accounting coverup.
Plakcy writes candidly and without fuss about his character’s sexual orientation, noting in the first page, "Yeah, I’m a friend of Dorothy, and proud of it, though it hasn’t always been easy being the only openly gay detective in the Honolulu Police Department." And of the murder victim’s Asian ex-partner, Kimo wonders, "Among gay men, a haole who likes Asian men is called a rice queen. I wondered if her family history and the jewelry she possessed made Zoë Greenfield the female equivalent of that term."
He and his fireman partner Mike have a good life together, but worry throughout the novel whether or not it’s the right time for them to start a family. Plakcy also shows off his knowledge of both Hawaiian culture and cop lingo. His character talks about growing up schooled in the Hawaiian ways, where he learned to repair an outrigger canoe, speak some Hawaiian, play the ipu gourd, and "weave a decent lauhala mat to use when my dad dug an imu in the backyard to roast a pig." There’s lots of surfing, following leads, double-crosses, and boat chases before the case is finally cracked. "Zero Break" is a well-written, thrilling read, refreshing for its LGBT characters and tropical backdrop. Think of it as "Hawaii 5-0" goes gay, a perfect read for while sunning yourself in The Pines. (MLR Press)
"Crimes on Latimer" (Joseph R.G. DeMarco)Joseph R.G. DeMarco takes a look into the formative years of his gay detective character, Marco Fontana, in this teasing collection of short murder mysteries. In the first, "The Kronos Elect," Young Marco is a scholarship student at St. T’s Catholic School when school disciplinarian Patrick Bidding is murdered. Marco’s ally on the staff, closeted Mr. Sullivan, is a suspect for the murder, and this young P.I. rushes to his aid to discover that it was the disciplinarian’s son, Damian, and his pact of ne’er-do-well friends, who did the dastardly deed. In another, Marco helps the employee of a friend, who has been accused of stealing a valuable DaVinci sketch. The sketch’s owner, Mr. Haldane, is the father of Marco’s high school crush, Cullen, and the thief ends up being Haldane’s son-in-law to be.
The story reads like Dashiell Hammett paperback noir, with a gay plot twist. In "The G-String Thief," one of the dancers at Marco’s business, StripGuyz, is being targeted. The dancer, Kyle, suspects his rich family has hired the thug who is harassing him, to force him to give up stripping. He’s partially right. Through the stories, readers learn about Marco’s teen years and ’20s, his growing collection of friends and allies, and his healthy attitude regarding his sexual orientation. This collection of mini-mysteries is compelling, even if at times, the pat way young Marco solves the case seems a little hard to believe. Overall, the collection is solid, and serves to spark interest in the escapades of this gay private dick, all grown up. (Lethe Press)
"The Survival Methods and Mating Rituals of Men and Marine Animals" (Chris Kenry)In this engaging novel, children’s book author Davis Garner has hit rock bottom: he’s been diagnosed with HIV, been evicted from his almost-bare apartment, and his reputation as a writer has suffered at the fate of his last two, poorly-written books. When a friend helps him get a job as a technical writer on an Antarctic-bound research vessel, Davis at first suffers the insecurity of not knowing anything at all about the job he is supposed to be doing.
He soon realizes that his shipmates are not all they’re cracked up to be, either, from the stern network administrator Maureen, to the electrical tech Worm, to the handsome scientist Artaud. Davis spends his days aimlessly wandering the ship, inventing a weekly list of his accomplishments, and playing game after game after game of solitaire on his computer. He balances the need to make the money for his HIV medication with his loathing for the job and for how it takes him away from writing his new children’s book. But when he is tapped as the marine tech investigating whether the seismic technology is causing marine animals to beach themselves, he finds himself in the middle of a very polarizing issue.
Meanwhile, Maureen has stolen the superior scientific work of Artaud’s ex-wife for him to pass off as his own, Worm has had a surprisingly successful one-time hookup with the object of his affection, Maureen, and the less said about Artaud’s hairy sidekick Jerry, the better. In the end, Davis, Maureen, and Worm team up to bring to light Artaud’s sinister plans to sell the scientific research to oil companies, barely escaping a triple-murder in the process. Kenry’s fourth novel shows his chops as a consummate weaver of stories, able to hook the reader early and reel him in with one whale of a tale. A perfect read for a leisurely week at a seaside resort. (Kensington Books)