Black and Blue and Pretty Dead Too

Title: Black and Blue and Pretty Dead Too
Author: Mark Zubro
Cover Design: Deana C. Jamroz
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Black and Blue and Pretty Dead, Too
Genre: Detective / Police
Length: 81,000 words
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 rating stars

A Guest Review by Raine

Summary Review: New book in long established police detective series, strong atmospheric writing with gritty very down beat realism.

Blurb: Paul Turner returns. In his first appearance since 2007, this gay Chicago detective and father of two sons gets caught in a tangle of intrigue and corruption. A brutal Chicago cop is found murdered at a gay leather festival. Turner, plus his police department partner, Buck Fenwick are assigned the case. Through a rising tide of danger, they need to find the truth among police corruption and cover ups. Some top cops and A-list leather queens are among those whose lies and fears drive the web of desperation and deceit that Turner and his partner must unravel.


When I chose this book to review unfortunately I didn’t realise it was no 10 in a well established series featuring Paul Turner and his work partner Buck Fenwick so I came to it rather late in the action. I actually found the very strong writing allowed this story to stand on it’s own, though I did feel I obviously missed out on some of the previously established history. It is a genre detective novel with no romance at all, indeed concentrating on the work partnership of the two very dissimilar but interesting and original men.

This felt like a mainstream detective novel in the tradition of early Robert B Parker, Jonathan Kellerman or Robert Crais. Though the detectives in these books are often outside the system, this book is very much set within the Chicago Police Dept. The general tone of the story is down beat bleak realism and it is achieved with depressing success. The oppressive humidity of a Chicago summer sweats off the pages as the two detectives try to find the murderer of a brutal cop. The case sets them against other police in a nasty mess of internal police concealment and cover ups. From the beginning it is described as as a, ” no-win ball-buster.”

The main character Paul Turner is out and gay with a husband and two sons in their teens, but this warm family life remains firmly in the background for this episode in the series. His police partnership with Buck Fenwick is the main relationship in this book. I enjoyed the familiarity of their well worn dialogue routines, and the complete trust they had in each other. The guys are clearly at least in the middle range of their careers. Buck is a big man, physically overweight but tough and clever, with a happy marriage of his own to support him. This case definitely wears them down with it’s cast of often unpleasant and sleazy characters. The good cops and the hard working police support staff were shown with some good working day detail. The gay leather festival is the setting of the murder and Fenwick’s introduction to this scene was effective without stereotypical set ups. Hence his question to Turner, who early on in their partnership had already given him the Gay 101 course,

“How much do you know about this leather shit “
“Enough to have a good time.”

It was actually hard to care about the solving of this crime, other than wanting Turner and Fenwick to be successful as the victim was really awful – as were most of the police, portrayed as inept bullies. It’s not what you could call an uplifting read, but it is powerfully atmospheric, as they cope in their own particular way with the, mind-numbing weariness of dealing with the dregs of society.



  • Raine
    Thank you for this wonderfully crafted review. I would have missed this book altogether except for your review. This is a genre that I love so I’m definitely putting Black and Blue and Pretty Dead Too on my TBR.

    • I am going to check out the earlier books, I used to read this genre in mainstream lit almost exclusively a few years ago, but I got fed up with some author’s blatant formulaic writing. For this to be No. 10 and still strong leaves me hopeful for the rest. 😀

      Thanks Wave.

  • Yes definitely stood on it’s own feet, but I think I missed out on all the early stuff with the main character Paul as I’m guessing being a gay cop caused problems also he clearly has a great romance in the backlist. It is not a sweet read- Buck sweats all over this book, but it’s memorable. 😀

  • Oh I want to read it, you said it stood on it’s own and you were not terribly confused? Thanks for the review 🙂


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