A genre-within-a-genre--the homosexual mystery--has a relatively new practitioner in Nava (Goldenboy, 1988), whose Fine, spare prose and intelligence deserve attention. Here, Nava's sleuth--wise, sensitive California attorney Henry Rios--is urged by his sister Elena to defend pedophile Paul Windsor from a murder charge. The victim: smarmy John McKay, a kiddie-porn merchant whose skull and genitals were crushed with something much like a baseball bat. The venue: Henry's hometown of Las Robles, which evokes less-than-kind memories for him. Meanwhile, eager to help Henry are two Las Robles cops--Ben Vega (a jogger, who is turned on by thoughts of Henry and his HIV-positive lover, Josh) and Dwight Morrow (a macho, take-action type), both of whom were abused by a school coach. With a clue gleaned from an A.A. member, Henry assigns another identity to McKay, traces his relationships with various Las Robles residents, and proves that Windsor, whom he loathes, isn't guilty--though the D.A.'s office will ultimately cover up for the real villains. Henry's edgy relationship with his sister; his tenderness toward his young endangered lover; his unstereotyped thinking and level-headedness; and his nongimmicky investigative skills--all may turn Joseph Hansen's David Brandstetter the deepest, most envious green.