Keen characterization drives a somewhat cold but thought-provoking crime tale.


A young gay man in 1960s Chicago is wrongfully accused of murder in Fritsch’s novel.

Twenty-something bank accountant Ted Linden comes home to a shock—his live-in boyfriend’s dead body. Someone has slashed 19-year-old Warren Hadley’s throat in their backyard garden. Ted wastes no time in pointing the finger at Darrel, Warren’s virulently homophobic older brother. As if losing his beloved partner weren’t enough, Ted suffers backlash following media coverage of the killing. Some of this is sadly unsurprising, such as his boss’s pique following Ted’s frank statements to reporters regarding his gay relationship. But he’s blindsided when he’s accused of Warren’s murder. Ted has little doubt that the real culprit is Darrel, but until the police can prove that, he must prepare to defend himself in the event he is indicted. And if Darrel is truly innocent as he claims, will it be up to Ted to find the murderer? The author’s quiet story is only nominally a mystery; things simply come to light, as neither Ted nor the amiable investigating local detective, Tim Conway, dig up any clues. There’s sharp, abundant social commentary taking aim at the Vietnam War and racism, among other topics (Warren, speaking of Darrel, suggests, “He should tell the draft board he’s homosexual. You know, he likes other men. After he does that, they won’t let him near the straight guys they’re sending to die in Viet Nam for no good reason at all”). The author develops the relatively small cast well; Ted and Warren, for example, have drastically different experiences coming out to their respective families. Unfortunately, readers barely get a glimpse of the couple’s 14-month romance before its tragic ending. Moreover, Ted’s passionless first-person narration fails to illustrate the dismay he must surely feel. While some readers will guess the ending, it still packs a punch as it reckons with the aftermath of such events for an openly gay man in the mid-20th century.

Keen characterization drives a somewhat cold but thought-provoking crime tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2023

ISBN: 9798985072631

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Asymmetric Worlds

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2023

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A unique story of transcendent love.


An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.


An old-fashioned gumshoe yarn about Hollywood dreams and dead bodies.

Private investigator Aloysius Archer celebrates New Year’s Eve 1952 in LA with his gorgeous lady friend and aspiring actress Liberty Callahan. Screenwriter Eleanor Lamb shows up and offers to hire him because “someone might be trying to kill me.” “I’m fifty a day plus expenses,” he replies, but money’s no obstacle. Later, he sneaks into Lamb’s house and stumbles upon a body, then gets knocked out by an unseen assailant. Archer takes plenty of physical abuse in the story, but at least he doesn’t get a bullet between the eyes like the guy he trips over. A 30-year-old World War II combat veteran, Archer is a righteous and brave hero. Luck and grit keep him alive in both Vegas and the City of Angels, which is rife with gangsters and crooked cops. Not rich at all, his one luxury is the blood-red 1939 Delahaye he likes to drive with the top down. He’d bought it with his gambling winnings in Reno, and only a bullet hole in the windscreen post mars its perfection. Liberty loves Archer, but will she put up with the daily danger of losing him? Why doesn’t he get a safe job, maybe playing one of LA’s finest on the hit TV show Dragnet? Instead, he’s a tough and principled idealist who wants to make the world a better place. Either that or he’s simply a “pavement-pounding PI on a slow dance to maybe nowhere.” And if some goon doesn’t do him in sooner, his Lucky Strikes will probably do him in later. Baldacci paints a vivid picture of the not-so-distant era when everybody smoked, Joe McCarthy hunted commies, and Marilyn Monroe stirred men’s loins. The 1950s weren’t the fabled good old days, but they’re fodder for gritty crime stories of high ideals and lowlifes, of longing and disappointment, and all the trouble a PI can handle.

Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1977-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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