Monday, February 18, 2013

Fadeout by Joseph Hansen

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: The University of Wisconsin Press
Pages: 187

Dave Brandstetter is an insurance company investigator in charge of looking into difficult claims. When radio personality Fox Olson’s convertible plunges off a mountain road into a river, Brandstetter is called in to determine why nobody can find the body. Was it an accident? Suicide? Murder? Or is Fox alive and in hiding? And how does all this relate to the sudden reappearance of Olson’s war buddy.

Brandstetter has his own demons to fight. He has recently lost his lover, and this is his first case after coming back onto the job after a number of months off to get over what he can’t get over.

Olson lived in a small western town, one where everyone seemed to love him, and also where everyone has secrets. Brandstetter must expose all those secrets in order to uncover the truth and solve the case.

In 1972 Joseph Hansen published the first of what would grow to twenty-five novels, twelve of which feature Dave Brandstetter as the hard edged, openly gay, thinking man’s investigator. Brandstetter was not the first gay sleuth, but he was the first healthy, gay detective that was utterly comfortable with his sexuality. He is as real a person as a novel character can be.

The writing and pacing are superb. Hansen has been compared to Hammett, Ross MacDonald, and Chandler, and for good reasons. Although there are some plot twists that are obvious, there are plenty of surprises that keep the reader guessing to the last few pages.

It is a moving, interesting, sure-handed book on every level.

After four decades, every aspect of this story and the writing holds up. Hansen’s work is destined to be deemed classic. This is a story I can highly recommend to all readers who enjoy a good mystery.

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