Disgraced journalist Benjamin Justice finds himself enmeshed in two old deaths--a 1950s movie star and the black man lynched for the murder--as well as a new murder, that of a gossip columnist who promised to reveal "explosive" new information.Disgraced journalist Benjamin Justice finds himself enmeshed in two old deaths--a 1950s movie star and the black man lynched for the murder--as well as a new murder, that of a gossip columnist who promised to reveal "explosive" new information.Read Less
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My favorite gay mystery writer John Morgan Wilson is back with a seventh Benjamin Justice novel, Rhapsody in Blood. Benjamin Justice is a 40-something, HIV+ white gay man missing one eye who lives in West Hollywood and is a disgraced former Los Angeles Times reporter who was forced to return a Pulitzer Prize after it was revealed he faked his award-winning article. Somehow he finds himself in situations where people harboring secrets frequently meet violent deaths (and he is often in mortal danger, too--when we first met Justice he was HIV- and intact). His sidekick is Alexandra Stevenson, a statuesque African American trust fund baby in her early 30s who also happens to be a star Times reporter. Other characters in the Justice series are Maurice and Fred, a 70-something gay couple who have been together for over 50 years and who rent out the room over their garage to Justice in the heart of Boystown. The first six books in the series have also used Los Angeles (and usually West Hollywood) as a character. One of the most enjoyable features was reading Wilson's descriptions of locales around the city complete with historical nuggets of places that I can (and often do) drive by whenever I want. Initially the books in the series had the cute affectation of always including Justice in the title: Simple Justice, Revision of Justice, Justice at Risk, The Limits of Justice. Then the series took a harrowingly dark turn during the last one and continued in that vein in Blind Eye with some relief coming in Moth and Flame. The latest installment is Rhapsody in Blood, which is not set in Los Angeles but is a classic Hollywood murder mystery. Justice and Stevenson go up to a small mountain town a few hours away from L.A. now called Haunted Springs. Fifty years ago gorgeous movie star Rebecca Fox was found murdered in one of the family-run hotel's rooms on March 15th while shooting a movie in Eternal Springs. She had recently had sex with someone and the hotel owner's teenage son claimed he had seen a black man coming out of the room. The man Ed Jones was immediately arrested by the local sherrif (who happened to be related to the hotel owner) and lynched later that same night--no murder weapon was ever found in the hotel room. Twenty-five years ago Rebecca Fox's daughter Brandy Fox checked into the same hotel room on the 25th anniversary of her mother's murder and was found dead in her room with her throat cut and the knife in her hand. The death was ruled a suicide. The name of the town was changed to Haunted Springs and the mythology of the two Hollywood deaths and the creepy hotel grew, particularly after the publication of a best-selling true crime book about the ill-fated town. Now Hollywood is filming a movie based on the Rebecca and Brandy Fox deaths at the hotel. Templeton is writing a story about the filming of the movie, which stars one of the current top female box-office stars, a very attractive up and coming male starlet and a popular rapper. What makes the Justice novels so interesting is that even though they are firmly ensconced in the murder mystery genre the author has no qualms about including social commentary on any number of urgent comtemporary topics. In Rhapsody in Blue there are threads about race (from the DL or "down low" phenomenon, to a dissection of the psychological motivations behind the panic caused by Black male/White female couplings, lynching, among other topics), sexuality (outing, the coming out process, childhood precociousness, age-based anxieties), music (hip hop/rap, the music business, the title is a pun on Rhapsody in Blue which is a key theme throughout the book), history (who controls what the nature of 'truth' is, how the past influences the present and the future, basic historical facts about lynching in the United States), fame (it's fragility and allure, the Hollywood public relations apparatus, the extremes to which people will go to get it, gossip, etc) all weaved together in a well-crafted mosaic which provides a backdrop for a satisfying, insightful and fun read. I can't wait for the next one! GRADE: A.
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