Lavender House

When he's hired to determine if an apparent accident is murder, a gay detective reveals the cracks in a powerful queer family in Lev AC Rosen's insightful, character-driven mystery, Lavender House. Rosen (Camp) is known for his contemporary novels for young adults, but Lavender House demonstrates his skill at compelling, thoughtful and twisty adult historical mystery. It's 1952 in San Francisco, and Andy Mills has just been fired from his job as a police detective after being caught with another man in a raid on a gay club. Andy is drinking himself into a suicidal stupor when Pearl approaches him with a proposition: Will he come stay with her family and determine if the recent death of her life partner, Irene Lamontaine--family matriarch and head of the Lamontaine Soap empire--was truly an accident?

Hidden away in Lavender House, named for its inhabitants and for soap maker Irene's abundant lavender-filled gardens, Pearl and Irene's family is unconventional. With one exception, the other occupants are also all queer: Pearl and Irene's son and Lamontaine heir Henry and his former-dancer partner Cliff; Henry's legal wife, Margo, and her club-owner partner Elsie; and three staff members. The last is Margo's irritable, heterosexual mother, residing in an uneasy truce with this found family and their secrets.

Andy gets to know every character, with all their petty squabbles and the festering resentments. Even with the bitterness and murder, there's a fierce love and loyalty in this family that draws in Andy and readers. Readers who love queer history, complicated family dynamics, flawed characters and a good murder mystery will be eager for more. --Suzanne Krohn, librarian and freelance reviewer

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