Strachey’s Folly by Richard Stevenson was probably not the best place for me to start reading the Donald Strachey mystery series. The first several books in this series have been made into movies for Here! television, which I think is a pay-per-view channel. I’ve seen them all through Netflix since CJ and I don’t really have television. They are decent movies, not great but entertaining and professionally made which is more than one can say for most television movies made for the gay audience. So I thought I’d give one of the books a try.
It turns out that Strachey’s Folly is the seventh book in the series which is usually a mixed sign in a mystery series. I think most readers of mystery books will agree that the first few books in a series are usually the best. After five or six in a series things become fairly routine. Sometimes one gets the feeling that the author has simply become used to a regular paycheck and is grinding them out long after he or she has burned out.
I can’t compare Strachey’s Folly to earlier books in the series but I can say that the television movies based on them are better. Donald Strachey is a former marine turned private investigator who is in a long term relationship with his preppy partner Timmy. They two of them are visiting a friend in Washington D.C. at the time of the large AIDS Quilt display on the capitol mall. Their friend Maynard is shocked to find a quilt panel dedicated to Jim Sutter, whom he once dated who he knows to still be alive. That evening Maynard is critically wounded in a drive-by shooting and the novel’s mystery is set in motion. Why is a living man’s name on a panel in the AIDS Quilt? Where is the man? Who shot Maynard and why?
The answer involves various people in the government, the novel is set in Washington after all, a drug cartel in Mexico and a jealous drag queen who also once dated Jim Sutter. Strachey is determined to discover why his friend was shot, even at risk to his own life and without the help of the local police, who are much more of a hindrance anyway. As is typical in many detective novels since Dashell Hammett’s Red Harvest, each answer Strachey finds leads to more questions as the story becomes more complex until the final truth is revealed in the closing chapters. The minor characters serve to advance the plot, as they should in a detective novel, though they are something of a distraction in the opening chapters. (I like a detective story that gets to the heart of the mystery from the outset, usually with a dead body in the first chapter.)
Gosh this is a bad review. I almost didn’t bother moving it over here from my old blog Ready When You Are, C.B. where it first ran back in 2009. But, here it is, anyway. In the years since I ran this review, I have not pursued more Donald Strachey mysteris, though I did enjoy the television movies.