Life goes on in Dumont, Wisconsin. Dumont Daily Register publisher Mark Manning’s lover, architect Neil Waite, has moved up from Chicago to open a new office; police chief Douglas Pierce has come out of the closet; Roxanne Exner, Mark’s and Neil’s friend visiting from Chicago, confesses that she’s about to try moving in with her ex–law partner Carl Creighton; and Mark’s participation in the local community theater has made a new teenager out of his cousin and ward Thad Quatrain. But on the very night Thad’s life is turned around by his role in Teen Play, it’s turned upside down by the news that his costar, Jason Thrush, has died, apparently of nothing more dire than a head cold. It’s obvious from the beginning that Jason’s been the victim of poisonous mushrooms, but since there’s no trace of mushrooms in his stomach, the coroner orders an autopsy, whose delayed results leave Mark and Neil (Name Games, 2000, etc.) plenty of time to pick out motives for surviving relatives ($$$$) and cast members (even though Thad’s own public quarrel with homophobic Jason stands out with glaring clarity to the authorities); speculate about their newest friends’ sexual orientation; and indulge in lovingly described sexual encounters themselves. By the time Jason’s chintzy-smelling fragrance alerts Mark to the way he was killed, the tone of chatty middle-class normality, compounded equally of gossip about the suspects’ bona fides and homilies about Mark’s and Neil’s own, has become downright schoolmarmish.
The mystery, in fact, barely holds a candle to Craft’s latest paean to gay life in the suburbs.