Title: The Voxlightner Scandal (BJ Vinson Mysteries #6)
Author: Don Travis
Release Date: November 19, 2019
Page Count: 264
Reviewed by: Bob-O-Link
Heat Level: .5 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
A BJ Vinson Mystery
No good deed goes unpunished, as investigator BJ Vinson is about to discover.
Writer John Pierce Belhaven was murdered before he could reveal the name of another killer—one connected to the biggest scandal to rock Albuquerque in years. Two of the city’s most prominent citizens—Barron Voxlightner and Dr. Walther Stabler—vanished in 2004, along with fifty million dollars looted from Voxlightner Precious Metals Recovery Corp. It only makes sense that poking into that disappearance cost Belhaven his life.
But BJ isn’t so sure.
He’s agreed to help novice detective Roy Guerra reopen the old case—which the wealthy and influential Voxlightner family doesn’t want dredged up. But Belhaven was part of their family, and that connection could’ve led to his murder. Or did the sixty-year-old author die because of a sordid sexual affair?
Let me begin by acknowledging, though I am generally a fan of mysteries – particularly gay
mysteries – I’ve not read any of Mr Travis’s previous books in this series. Our hero, BJ
Vinson, and his cohorts are all new to me. Also, for those of you with only a brief
attention span, please note that The Voxlightner Scandal is moderately entertaining, but
with a nonexistent heat level (that is, reading it isn’t apt to make you want to take yourself
Now, however, I’d like to pose a basic question: what qualifies a novel as “gay lit?” I
ask because, despite BJ Vinson’s acknowledged homosexual orientation and commitment
to that life style, The Voxlightner Scandal details almost no gay sex, nor is any part of the
plot’s development seemingly affected by what might be posited as in the realm of “gay
cause and effect.” Were it not for including this review of The Voxlightner Scandal in our
Gay Books Review cite, would that matter? Well, no more than if BJ Vinson were noted
in passing for being, let’s say, African American or Jewish, and then including an
appropriate review in a fiction grouping specializing in similar characters – but in which
that singular characteristic means nothing of import to the work being reviewed.
Despite being set in our early 21st century, Mr Travis has produced a work sounding to
our inner ear that is reproductive of the prior mid-century noir-ish writing. It is overly
replete with details, such as road routes or the names of characters who only make passing (i.e.,
unimportant) appearances. [For those more addicted to old TV shows than to reading,
think of the vocal cadences of Jack Webb’s Dragnet.] The result, though adding no
intrinsic value to the novel, risks excessively confusing us with too many incidental
characters and facts. Nonetheless, kudos to Mr Travis, who is quite clever in exercising
the erudition of a good writer’s vocabulary: acluistic; assitude; a bimbo and a bimbob.
While there are no obligatory sex scenes in this story, drolely, BJ Vinson refers to his
lover’s tattoo as “Pedro,“ and frequently uses that reference to allude to their sexual
interactions. “Once fed, Pedro prowled for an hour, streamed up our bedroom so much I
was afraid one of poor neighbors would call the fire department.” Or, “Pedro had a ball
that evening, and I slept like a log for what was left of the night.”
Sadly, was Mr Travis to take up Elmore Leonard’s rule number ten, quoted early on in
The Voxlightner Scandal, to “leave out the parts nobody wants to read,” we’d likely have
spent less time and gained just about as much satisfaction.