Thursday, August 18, 2011

Death of a Dying Man by J.M. Redmann

Publisher:              Bold Strokes Books

Fans of the Micky Knight series had to wait a long time for this installment.  The fact that Redmann lives in New Orleans played a big a part in that and the fact that Hurricane Katrina becomes a character in this book.

Damon LaChance is a well-known figure in the New Orleans gay community, famous for his decadence and the bars he owns in the French Quarter.  Seven years before he slept with a woman for the first and last time, so, when she told him she was pregnant, he rejected her.  It couldn't be his child, could it?  Now Damon is dying and he's having doubts.  He wants Micky to find the child and determine if she is his daughter.  He wants someone to leave his property to, but more importantly, he wants to feel a connection to the future he won't have.  When someone murders Damon, Micky becomes more determined to find the child that someone is trying to disinherit.   

Micky's task and her life are complicated by Dr. Lauren Calder and her lover Shannon Wild.  Dr. Calder is working on a project with Micky's lover Dr. Cordelia James and taking up way too much of Cordelia's time.  Shannon is a journalist who decides that working with Micky to solve the LaChance case would be a great way to get experience and to hit on Micky.  Micky's professional work is distracted by Shannon's presence and her personal life begins to deteriorate as she suspects something may be going on between Lauren and Cordelia.  As Hurricane Kartina roars into the Gulf Coast Micky's emotions are torn in multiple directions and she is forced to face the possibility that not only will she lose the city she loves, but the relationship her whole life is based upon.

Redmann is a Lambda Literary Award winner and shows her experience in this book.  The various subplots weave together like threads to form the pattern of the whole cloth.  Just enough about the plot is revealed to keep the reader going, but not enough to keep surprises from popping up.  Micky's emotions are tightly wrapped and on the verge of flying apart as she vacillates between confidence and doubt.  The dramatic tension created by the search for the child, and by extension the murderer, is counter balanced by the tension between Micky and Cordelia. 

Looming over everything is the growing presence of the storm as it approaches.  Redmann captures the inattention of the residents as Katrina is just a story on the news and then the growing awareness of the danger they face as landfall becomes imminent.  The terror of the flight from the city, the sense of powerlessness to help those left behind and the devastation caused to New Orleans pours from the pages.  Characters who haven't acted nobly earlier in the book emerge as heroes and others show their true natures.

The spell that Jean Redmann weaves draws the reader into and through the book.  There is a totally unexpected twist in the relationship between Micky and Cordelia that begs for the rapid appearance of the next book in the series.  Death of a Dying Man has a lot of selling points – mystery, romance, emotions and current events.  Readers should be able to enjoy it on many levels.

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