A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
Patrick St. James is a rookie cop fresh out of the Academy in Maryland’s Prince George’s County when a serial killer begins targeting young gay men. He and fellow rookie Hank Capstone are assigned to the case to go undercover as gay men, ironically with both of them being gay — and closeted at work — themselves. While he spends his time hanging out in gay bars and cruising spots trying to bait the killer, he is also trying to deal with a homophobic workplace and get his personal life on track. Can he deal with the stress associated with the Job and this case and sort out his love life at the same time?
Murder Most Gay Series
This is the first novel penned by Simpson, though the second I’ve read (Condor One is reviewed here). Once again, it is obvious that Simpson brings to the story his long and extensive background of award-winning service in security and protection, both at the local and national level. Murder Most Gay is a fairly fast-paced police procedural with gay sex thrown in for flavor. Based on a real murder case in Orlando, Florida from 1980 that he was involved in, Simpson gives us what I would imagine is a look at the day-to-day workings of a police force, especially in the midst of a high-profile case. There is a lot of jargon, radio codes, weaponry names, descriptions of other police-y stuff included. He also provides a glimpse of what it must be like for a gay person to be on the police force: the rampant homophobia, the fear of being outed, the feeling of being terrified that your fellow officers would respond late — if at all — to a call for officer assistance if they knew. I’d like to think that we’ve progressed in this country to behave differently, but, alas, I don’t think we have.
Overall, as an avid fan of Law & Order and other police dramas, I found the topic held my interest. Since we’re told over and over that men are horndogs (as Bobby Michaels calls them), I can see a gay man acting as Pat did, juggling three men at once for part of the story, and along with this, I thought the sex straddled the line between enough to further the plot and gratuitous. I believe wholeheartedly that a gay man would have fear of being out on the force. For the most part, I bought the “whodunit” of the story, as far as the killings and who is behind them goes. All of these things worked for me.
What I found inconceivable, however, is that a rookie, one with less than two months experience, would not only be given a key place in a high-profile investigation, but one that would be undercover. Even more so would be that said rookie would be permitted to have essentially detective duties and a voice in the operational decisions, as strong an impact as his superiors.
Additionally, although there were a few humorous situations of it being like a cop version of Victor/Victoria (a gay man posing as a straight man acting like a gay man), if Pat or Hank weren’t already gay, I absolutely believe there is no way they could have pulled off the undercover part successfully — behaving comfortably as a gay man. One look at how other undercovers on the case behaved and reacted led me to believe that a suspect would have little chance of believing they were gay. I’m not sure a heterosexual man’s acting skills would pass the test when being kissed, groped, propositioned by and dancing half naked with other men, at least not without coaching and training on how to do so realistically and comfortably. It’s like being thrown into an acting role without studying for the part. Was there no one else the Captain could have chosen for this case, someone with more time on the Job or experience in undercover work? I do realize that there wouldn’t be a story if that were to happen and we’re supposed to suspend disbelief and all, but still… Now, if Pat was out and his superiors knew he was gay, or if he had several years under his belt on the force (even with no undercover experience), it would have made it more believable for me.
Although I liked the likeable characters in general (Pat, Dean, Hank, Bill), they came off as never fully developed and two-dimensional. I would have appreciated some back story on Dean and Pat, at the very least. Also, I felt no chemistry between these two, and the romantic and erotic elements felt forced. We are told that he and Dean have known each other and have been friends for a long time, and that Pat has had an unrequited thing for him, but because we are not given more than a few sentences regarding Pat’s longing for Dean — and less in reverse — it seemed surface only. I wish Simpson would have put as much time and effort into character development as he did in the procedure.
As for the secondary characters, many of them seemed stereotypical. Pat’s friends are, in his words, a bunch of “nellie queens.” In most cases, his fellow officers are shown as homophobic bigots and jerks. His lovers are beautiful, in great shape and are very well endowed, as is he.
Overall, I though this was a “blah” story, as Emmy would call it. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. There were some believability issues for me, but it was an okay read, especially if you like crime dramas and can set aside your disbelief (or maybe you won’t have issues with the things I did). There is a sequel, Task Force, and I am trying to decide if I am going to read it or not. Maybe third time’s the charm for Simpson for me?