Fadeout (A Dave Brandstetter Mystery #1)

Title: Fadeout (A Dave Brandstetter Mystery #1)
Author: Joseph Hansen
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Amazon: Buy Link Fadeout: A Dave Brandstetter Mystery 
Genre: mystery
Length: 190 pages
Rating : 5+ stars out of 5, DIK

A guest review by Sirius

Summary: This is the first book in the series of well known mysteries featuring insurance investigator Dave Brandsetter. The book is really really good 🙂


Fadeout is the first of Joseph Hansen’s twelve classic mysteries featuring rugged Dave Brandstetter, an insurance investigator who is contentedly gay. When entertainer Fox Olson’s car plunges off a bridge in a storm, a death claim is filed, but where is Olson’s body? As Brandstetter questions family, fans, and detractors, he grows certain Olson is still alive and that Dave must find him before the would-be killer does. Suspenseful and wry, shrewd and deeply felt, Fadeout remains as fresh today as when it startled readers more than thirty years ago.

A Dave Brandstetter Mystery Series


First and foremost I would like to say that I think the blurb is perfect. It gives you the initial set up of the mystery, briefly reminds the readers that those books are well known and that’s about it. I liked it.

I discovered these books from Teddy Pig’s blog. I bought the first book in paperback, realized that there is a complete collection in one book, quickly bought it for a very decent price on Amazon. Now the complete edition seems to be out of print, and of course third party sellers charge crazy prices, but the separate books are available in paperback on Amazon. The first two books are also available as ebooks directly from the publisher and apparently on Nook and Cobo as well, but not on Amazon. I hope the whole series will be reissued for Kindle one day, I really do.

I actually did not start reading this book for a very long time. You know how you have heard so much about a book and you are afraid to be disappointed? Well, needless to say I was not disappointed at all. The book sucked me in from the very first passage, literally.

“Fog shrouded the canyon, a box canyon above a California ranch town called Pima. It rained. Not hard but steady and gray and dismal. Shaggy pines loomed through the mist like threats. Sycamores made white, twisted gestures above the arroyo. Down the arroyo water pounded, ugly, angry and deep. The road shattered the arroyo. It was a bad road. The rain had chewed its edges. There were holes. Mud and rock half buried it in places. It was steep and winding and there were no guard rails.

He drove it with sweating hands. Why? His smile was sour. Why so careful? Wasn’t death all he’d wanted for the past six weeks? His mouth tightened. That was finished. He’d made up his mind to live now. Hadn’t he? Live and forget – at least until he could remember without pain. And that would happen someday. Sure it would. All the books said so. The sum of human wisdom. Meantime, he was working again”.

I do not know about you, but these introductory passages transported me right away into this bleak landscape and portrayed a strong person who is almost overwhelmed by grief and still fights hard to not be completely overwhelmed to the point of no return. I could not stop reading.

I am sure you understood when you saw the grade that this whole review is not a critical one, but I just cannot help myself, with every introduction of new characters, with every twist and turn in the plot I could not help but think – this is one of the best executions of this thing and this thing, and this one again. Of course by now I have read enough gay romances, gay romantic mysteries and other subgenres with gay protagonists, so some ideas felt familiar, but as I said I just felt that Joseph Hansen wrote pretty much a perfect story and I had to keep reminding myself that as blurb stated he wrote it more than thirty years ago.

For example, when we meet Dave, we are not treated to a long and boring exposition as to how he looks and what happened in his past, instead the passage I quoted previously already sets up his mood and actually an overall bleak mood for the whole story very well. When Dave interviews one of the witnesses, we are given some details of his appearance and age and some things which come up during the interview make his mind wander and we learn something more about his past. I thought it was really well done.

I really liked how his character was revealed more and more throughout the investigation, throughout his actions, not just through his thoughts. I liked how we slowly learned how strong he is, how very compassionate he is and I really liked his sense of humor in those few situations when Dave actually showed it to the reader. I also thought that while the story is of course a mystery first and foremost, the love story in his past is one of  the most beautiful and poignant that I have ever read about in this genre, period. Unfortunately I grew to think that when in a mm book protagonist recalls the love story in his past, I would be bound to feel emotionally removed from the story. Boy was I wrong here, because emotionally removed from what Dave was remembering was so NOT what I was feeling. I was so very sad for him, but also happy that he had such a great love in his past.

The mystery he investigated seemed simple enough, but it was not predictable at all, not for me anyway. It was very well paced and I could not guess the villain or the result of the investigation. I thought that each and every one of the characters no matter how secondary they were in the story were acting believably and realistically, close to how I thought real people would act in those situations. I also think that in a sense the mystery went a little bit off the given path, because while Dave managed to catch the killer, in a sense he failed; without talking spoilers here, he fell to achieve the goal which he had when he just started his investigation. Those of you who have read or will read the story will know what I am talking about.

I also really enjoyed that despite the overall bleak atmosphere, things ended on somewhat hopeful note for Dave and cannot wait to read a second book.

Highly recommended



  • Thanks so much for the thoughtful review. I agree with you in your appreciation of Joseph Hansen’s sparse but poetic prose, of Dave’s compassionate nature, his stubborness in seeking the truth, his work ethic, but most of all how his humanity transpires from how he thinks of or treats the people he loves.

  • Wheeee! I’m so glad you liked it! :hurrah:

    Joseph Hansen’s my favourite writer, and after reading the Brandstetter series, I’ve managed to buy most of his other books. It’s a real shame they’re not available as ebooks, because I must’ve spent a fortune on them (including postage to Australia).

    I’m not sure if you know, but there’s a Brandstetter community on Live Journal where we’ve had some book discussions. Here’s the link for “Fadeout”:


    You might like to check out the other book discussions as you move through the series. 🙂 Here’s the tag page:


    • Thanks Gay, the man is the master, for sure, I have not felt that book was perfect for quite some time. I will check out the link, thank you 🙂

      OOOOO he wrote other books? Must see 🙂

  • It looks like I can get the Brandstetter books between the Berkeley and Oakland Public Libraries. I’m on it.

    • Thanks, Lynn, for doing my research for me! I was hoping between Berkeley/Oakland at least one of them would have it. :hurrah:

        • Fight ya for it? :boxing:

          As great as it sounds, I’ll probably hold off a bit as I have several other books I really need to read first. So hopefully the books’ll just be there, available, when each of us wants them. 😀

    • You really should try to find this one IMO :). Maybe we can all write to publisher and ask for kindle reissuance.

  • I bought the Complete Brandstetter, too, but I’m spreading them out. I think I still have 5 or 6 to read.

    I LOVE this series.

    • I am doing same thing – will be a medicine against every book I will find badly written – counterdose hee.

  • Okay, now I’m nervous I’ll have sticker shock when I check prices, but after this review I have to add this to my TBR… 😮

    Great review, and so glad you found a DIK! :bravo:

    • I am sorry, I am kind of having a sticker shock myself now, but I can see that you guys are figuring out library route :). Here is fingers crossed to eventual reissuance on Kindle. It really is an amazing book IMO.

  • I got this book from my library, it was special ordered from an alternate library.
    I so wish these were transferred to digital. I would definitely keep reading if they were more accessible.

    Thanks for the great review!

    • Reggie I definitely agree – if there are series needed to be reissued these fit the bill IMO. Maybe paperbacks could be found in your library as well?

  • I bought The Complete Brandstetter (all twelve mysteries) two and a half years ago for a very attractive price from an Amazon reseller, (I think it was $25 – $30) and I’m sure there are deals elsewhere for this set. It’s 1200 pages and well worth the price.

    • Looks like Word press ate my message to you. I bought it for $44 dollars and still thought it was a steal since Amazon sells separate books for almost $16 dollars and there are twelve of them. I hope there are deals too.

  • Thanks Sirius, I love a good mystery and this sounds great. LOL I see what you mean by the crazy prices for the complete set!! 😯


Please comment! We'd love to hear from you.

%d bloggers like this: