In L.A. Heat, a serial killer is on the loose in Los Angeles and he’s targeting gay men. LAPD Detective David Laine–himself gay but deeply closeted–is assigned to the case with his homophobic partner, Martinez Diego. The nature of the crimes and the brutalization of the victims bring disturbing emotions to the surface for David. Laine and his partner have a suspect: Christopher Bellamere–an openly gay California “golden boy” who crossed paths with two of the victims before their deaths. But when cop and suspect meet, an immediate attraction complicates the case and David Laine’s very private life.
As David works to find the killer–and Chris works to clear his name–they both seek to understand the complex feelings that are growing between them. Fast-paced and intricately plotted, L.A. Heat, author P.A. Brown’s debut novel, will have you on the edge of your seat right until thelast page is turned.
LAPD Homicide Detective David Lane lived on the down low because that was the only way he could survive as a gay cop. To make matters worse, his partner of 6 years Detective Martinez Diego was homophobic, and David seldom challenged him when he spoke in a derogatory manner about gays because he didn’t want to make waves or reveal his sexual orientation. The story opens when David was summoned to the scene of a murder which was so horrific that even after 16 years on the Force he had difficulty with the viciousness of the crime and the injuries to the body that were evident even with a decomposing corpse.
This latest murder had all the earmarks of a serial killer dubbed “The Carpet Killer” who was terrorizing L.A., and the likely suspect appeared to be Christopher Bellamere, for no other reason than he’s gay and knew the last victim. Chris had not been charged with the murders because David was looking beyond the obvious clues for the real killer. Unfortunately, Chris had had one night stands with a couple of the victims whom he met at a local bar where he hooked up with many gay men, and this kept him on the list of active suspects.
This book is grim and brutal and the murders are chilling and horrifying. If you don’t have a strong stomach L.A. Heat may not be the book for you. The first scene alone could put you off murder mysteries for life, it’s so gross. However if you are a fan of this genre the book is well worth reading. The story is engrossing and P.A. Brown’s writing is terrific and detailed as she strews red herrings everywhere to put you off the identity of the real killer. The pace is non stop and sometimes it’s killing (pun intended) as more and more mutilated bodies are discovered with similar identifying marks linking them to the Carpet Killer. Woven into the story is the attraction between David and Chris, and David becomes part of the story because he can’t stay away from the man he’s supposed to be investigating, and ultimately he crosses the line.
L.A. Heat emphasizes police procedures and timelines and that aspect of the story reminded me somewhat of the old television series Dragnet. 😀 It’s obvious that the author either had some experience with police procedure or did a great deal of research, which helped to underscore the authenticity of the plot. This book, like many other murder mysteries, is very violent especially as we experience the new murders along with the victims, but what I think sets it apart in terms of realism is the fact that the bodies were mutilated and this is described in detail.
I did have problems with a few of the characters, in particular Detective Martinez Diego whose over the top homophobia blinded him to the possibility that there could be other suspects; he was determined to arrest Chris regardless of the fact that some of the clues exonerated him, and his investigation focused on him to the exclusion of any other potential suspects, gay or straight. I thought that detectives were supposed to be guided by the evidence, not their personal feelings. Another issue I had was that one of the victims called Chris for help just before his demise, even though he hated him and made no secret of the fact that he was jealous of him, and I wondered if there was no one else that he could have used for his one phone call; it just seemed inconsistent for the victim to contact Chris when he knows he’s about to be murdered. The murderer was the other character that I wondered about because some of his actions seemed to be all over the map, although this might have been done to keep the readers guessing about his identity. He was very intelligent and clever and kept slipping through the fingers of the police and mocking them at every turn which is what most serial killers do, and every murder seemed to fit his pattern except one, the last, which did not make any sense to me. Also, his personality throughout the book seemed at variance with that of a vicious killer and there were no clues pointing to him as a possible suspect. However you will have to read the book to come to your own conclusions.
In case you think this is all about the murder investigation, there was a bit of humour along with another story – the affair between David and Chris. David tried to stay away because he realized that if he gave in to the attraction he might as well kiss his career goodbye. Ultimately his baser urges couldn’t be controlled and he fell headlong into lust and the situation he was trying to avoid – discovery by his fellow officers that he was gay and having an affair with a suspect!
Because of the issues I had which I noted above I marked the book down from my original rating however it’s still high on my list of murder mysteries and it’s particularly impressive because this was the author’s debut. The characterizations for the most part were well drawn, especially the protagonists, and one other character that I liked very much was Chris’s friend Des. The story was well plotted and suspenseful, and the ending will leave you breathless. If you want to read a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, L.A. Heat should be on your list of books to buy. Definitely recommended!