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MURDER GARDEN by Ron Fritsch


by Ron Fritsch

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 2023
ISBN: 9798985072631
Publisher: Asymmetric Worlds

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.