The Elegant Corpse by A.M. Riley
Roger Corso is a detective with the LAPD, and a more tightly wound individual would be hard to imagine. He could make Joe Friday look like a loose cannon and Felix Unger look like a slob (★). Part of that is just who he is, but there’s also a defensive wall around the part of him that still grieves for his dead lover. He also has to be on guard about his private life. While his fellow detectives know Roger is gay, they don’t know about his long association with the BDSM scene.
Roger’s carefully constructed walls separating his worlds start to crumble when he returns home from a week away to find a mummified dead body laid out on his living room couch. The bodies continue to pile up, and they all have something to do with Roger and his past, although many of them are strangers to him. Only, he’s at a loss to understand what message the killer is trying to send.
And then there’s Sean, the much younger brother of the first victim left on Roger’s sofa. He is everything that rubs Roger the wrong way: messy, brash, profane, undisciplined, and yet, Roger can’t seem to get rid of the man, or get him out of his head.
“The Elegant Corpse” is a lovely little mystery, with a bit of kink. It kept me guessing until the end, and it also didn’t wind things up in a rush, the way many mysteries do. Instead, we get a couple more chapters on the aftermath and what happens to the main characters. With that accolade comes a bit of a warning: about three-quarters through the book, when it all starts to unravel, I couldn’t put it down.
Although Roger’s character isn’t entirely likable, he is still very sympathetic. We can feel his pain, which continues even years after his beloved has died. Sean, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery, but that seems very intentional. It’s hard to tell at first if he’s gay, and his interest in the case will make you wonder if he’s involved.
The description of Sean makes him sound younger than he would actually be. The timeline of his brother’s murder would make him nearly 30, at least, but the author depicts his demeanor and body as if he were in his early twenties. It’s not so drastic that it makes the story unbelievable, it is just one of those things that nags at you once you realize it.
While the writing is generally very good, the editing leaves a lot to be desired. There were quite a few cases of missing or wrong words, and even one passage where one character is named instead of another, more than once. It’s the kind of thing that can really drive you nuts, since you have to stop and think, “Wait, what? Is he talking about Peter or Patrick?”
The web site for A.M. Riley doesn’t seem to have been updated for nearly a year.
★ If you don’t get my 1960s/70s television references, you’re probably too young to be reading this web site. Go away, and get off my lawn!