Rice’s third and best still bears the flaws of A Density of Souls (2000) and The Snow Garden (2002).
The young author concocts a gay mystery in West Hollywood that has echoes of Chandler but none of Chandler’s grip or stylish metaphor. Adam Murphy, 25, writes stories about gay life for LA’s Glitz, a magazine some think of as an underwear catalogue. Adam has a cocaine and alcohol problem that leads to blackouts, and in one of them he did something, he thinks, so shameful that he can’t remember it. He and the handsome Corey Howard, a nondrinker, were lovers for three glorious weeks, a time when Corey pumped Adam dry about his life while spilling nothing about himself. Corey breaks off their bond, seemingly over Adam’s habits, then disappears. He leaves behind his clothes, wallet, car keys, and the car itself. Has he become a victim of the West Hollywood Slasher? Three other handsome gays have vanished in the same way, leaving behind their wallets, car keys, and apartments—and the police have done nothing! Adam’s decision to dig into the story leads him to gay hangouts, notorious pimps, and at last to the straight detective novelist James Wilton, Rice’s best character ever (he should be played by Michael Gambon). Wilton hires Adam as an investigator, Glitz having fired him, and sends him out to look into the story of a married but gay and closeted marine helicopter pilot who may have killed himself—and three other marines, by plunging his copter into the bay—because of a video secretly made of him. Could this story be as big as the Black Dahlia? When Adam brings back evidence bit by bit, the all-knowing Wilton shrinks it to size but soars with mastery of motives. Things will lead to a vigilante who blows up Mexican meth factories and feeds underage kids to a pedophile ring.
Endless exposition masked as dialogue, though, makes interest fade.