October 11, 2018 at 5:24 pm EST | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Noir mystery ‘Death Checks In’ features gay protagonists
Death Checks In book review, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo courtesy Bold Strokes Books)

‘Death Checks In’
 
By David S. Pederson
 
Bold Strokes Books
 
$18.95
 
235 pages

A nice little getaway.

That’s all you wanted: two days alone, just you and your amour, with nothing to do but follow your whims. It was perfect, idyllic — until it wasn’t, and Responsible You won out over Romantic You. As in the new novel “Death Checks In” by David S. Pederson, it’s back to work.

Detective Heath Barrington had it all planned out: he and his boyfriend, Officer Alan Keyes would take the train from Milwaukee to Chicago, grab a cab to the downtown area, check into the Edmonton Hotel and enjoy a wonderful weekend.

It was 1947 and being gay could get a man in trouble, but Heath knew there’d be more anonymity for him and Alan in a larger city. The weather would be perfect for exploring nightclubs and sightseeing; there was plenty of entertainment nearby and a live show with a band inside the Edmonton. That, of course, meant that Alan would need a tuxedo so Heath offered to purchase one for him, which was when the men met Victor Blount, haberdasher.

Blount was a small man with a French accent and a dramatic way about him. He said he was an expert tailor, that he dabbled in photography and that he could secure “discreet” entertainment for Alan and Heath. That was odd, but Blount wasn’t the only character at the Edmonton: the hotel’s assistant manager was a blustery guy who had his eye on one of the regular guests, a “full-figured,” flirty widow from New York. A dotty old lady from nearby came to the Edmonton often enough for waitstaff to know her preferences. And the one-eyed piano player and his songstress-wife left an impression on Heath by arguing loudly with Blount, who seemed to be overcharging them.

Two days. That’s plenty of time for a romantic rendezvous, had Heath left work alone. But when Blount was found dead in his back room with “W” scrawled on the floor in his blood and a spool of green thread in his hand, two days was also long enough to solve a crime.

Strictly looking at “Death Checks In” as a mystery, it’s not bad. That it’s a noir whodunit is nice, the main characters are familiar from past books, it has that old-black-and-white-movie feel you know you love, and it’s sweetly chaste, in a late-1940s way.

But it’s also tedious since a lot of its action comes through dialogue, of which there is too much and in too much fussy, stiff detail. It’s wordy and feels like filler. It doesn’t help that author David S. Pederson added an eccentric old woman in this story, who constantly clucks like a chicken.

Yes, that’s written into numerous sentences. No, it’s not fun.

Overall, if you can avoid doing that “speed it up” movement with your hand, or if you like noir mysteries that are more on the light side, only then will this book fit. For you, then, “Death Checks In” is a worthwhile getaway.

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