Two police detectives return in a drag-inspired whodunit set in Florida.
Charmingly mismatched sleuths Nick Scott and Norm Malone embark on a new adventure in this sequel, this time in sultry Key West, home to “chickens everywhere you walk, people greeting strangers as if they were good friends, and no one seeming to have a care in the world.” Nick, host of the eponymous TV chat show The Gay Detective, met the slouchy, heterosexual Norm in the previous installment of the series, in which they teamed up to catch the notorious killer The Reaper while becoming good friends and roommates. Now, as a thank-you gift from the Chicago Police Department, they’re vacationing together in Key West. Of particular interest to Nick is an annual New Year’s Eve performance by the local drag diva Sho Yu, set to descend upon her adoring fans in a giant red shoe to formally announce her engagement to strapping fiance Matt. To the shock of onlookers, the shoe catches fire on the way down, injuring Matt, and within moments Sho Yu turns up missing. Officer Raphael Perez recruits Nick and Norm to lend their talents to the investigation, one that becomes even darker when Police Commissioner Tom Moss is found dead in his office. The two detectives begin to piece together what increasingly looks like a series of connected killings by a sinister and enigmatic network. Stripper Merlot and a bevy of sassy drag queens (Mimi Peters, Sin Onhym, and Polly Saturates) turn up to crack some jokes and complicate the plot. Along the way, Nick and Norm each finds romance, discovering once again that “sex is the best drug out there and doesn’t require a script” and encountering a number of unforeseen hurdles. In this enjoyable caper, Michaels (The Gay Detective, 2015) displays a superb sense of humor, and he deploys it more successfully here than in his last book, using it to balance Nick’s complex emotions and the story’s suspense. Nick’s fraught hookups are effectively woven into the texture of the plot (“Raphael certainly knew how to push my buttons and that scared me. We hardly knew each other”). But his reaction to Norm’s own liaison—particularly the intensity of his anger—may strike some readers as more convenient to the narrative than psychologically realistic. But this is a quibble: Michaels’ beguiling new tale is an amusing and gripping way to spend a few hours.
A topical, tropical mystery replete with scenes of entertaining buddy comedy.