Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Portrait Of Phillip By J. P. Bowie

Reviewer: Jon Michaelsen
Publisher: MLR Press,LLC (January 3, 2011)
Pages: 264

Awaking from a coma that lasted three years, gifted young artist, Peter Brandon, is told that his best friend and lover of the past ten years was dead, brutally murdered when both he and Peter were attacked in apparent gay-bashing outside a theater featuring a gay play. Worse, he learns that no one has been brought to justice for Phillip’s death. 

For everyone else, Phillip’s death occurred three years before, yet in Peter mind, the horrible loss rings fresh, his emotions raw and painful. He has lost the love of his life and has little strength to go on, no longer caring what happens to him, wishing instead he had been the one murdered and not his previous Phillip. 

Physical therapist, Andrew Connor, who was hired by Peter’s mother to attend to her son’s therapy while he remained in the void of coma, remains the boy’s physical therapist after Peter regains consciousness, and quickly learns the uphill battle he’s facing. It’s not until Phillip receives an affirmation from his deceased lover while visiting Phillip’s gravesite for the first time that Peter gets the needed strength to go on – to uncover the truth behind Phillip’s murder and see to it those responsible get justice. 

Mutual friends introduce Peter to Jeff Stevens, an ex-cop now private investigator with a personal connection to Peter’s case, still frustrated police had dropped the ball in the investigation of the seemingly random gay-bashing. Soon, Peter and Jeff learn Phillip’s death isn’t so simple and that the young man was targeted because of something he had overheard at his place of employment.

Throughout the investigation, Peter finds himself increasingly drawn to Jeff while vascillating between guilt for having feelings for another man other than Phillip and moving on with his life, but it’s with the encouragement of Phillip’s spirit that ultimately pushes Peter forward, more than once realized that Phillip is the one responsible for bringing Jeff into Peter’s life.

A Portrait of Phillip is the first in a series of Portrait novels by J.P. Bowie. I actually began reading the fourth in the series, A Self-Portrait, first – having read all three Nick Fallon mysteries by the same author that I had enjoyed so much. I wanted to read more of how Nick Fallon was introduced and of how he had met Peter and Jeff. 

I actually got about 70% into reading A Self-Portrait, which largely deals with the early years of how Peter and Phillip first met and of their subsequent relationship. A Self Portrait gave me far more insight into the two men, though perhaps many more tears since I had come to love Phillip to then have to read of the his attack and subsequent death. Reading these two novels in either order however gives the reader an awesome experience as J.P. Bowie is truly a talented story-teller, with the gift of fully drawing the reader in.

A Portrait of Phillip is as much a romantic love-story as an intriguing – and at times – a harrowing murder-mystery/thriller. The opening of the novel begins with Jeff missing and Peter frantic with worry and a moment of reverie has him reflecting on first meeting Phillip leading up to the attack. The last quarter of the novel pours on the thrills as friends (former NYC police detective, Nick Fallon and his partner, Eric) come to California to help Peter locate the missing Jeff. The result is a fast-paced romance/mystery/thriller sure to please and earn fans.

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