Mason Adler is a successful private detective in Phoenix. He often outsmarts the police to get to the bottom of suspicious deaths in the city. On a Saturday night during an unseasonably hot spring, Mason attends a birthday party thrown for him by his old schoolmate Walter. Walter's rather unusual birthday “gift” is for Mason to end the night with a wannabe actor who makes ends meet by turning tricks. Mason has qualms about the arrangement. Henry may be handsome, but he's too young for Mason's taste, and the whole setup feels wrong. Still, he meets Henry in Walter's bedroom, where Henry makes sure Mason washes up before they get down to business. When he returns from the bathroom, Mason is shocked to see Henry on the bed, covered in blood, with a knife sticking out of his chest. Who could have killed the man? More importantly, since Mason made sure the door was bolted from the inside, how did they do it?
“Murder on Monte Vista” is quite the classic locked-room murder mystery. The clues to solving it are all there for us, just as they are for Mason, but as often is the case, figuring out which bits of evidence are relevant and how they fit together is the key. The story spends quite a lot of time introducing us to the characters, such that the murder doesn't take place until well past the two-thirds mark.
The storytelling is very unusual. The narration is all from Mason's point of view, but we don't really get inside his head very much. Instead, the bulk of the story is told through conversations between Mason and his friends. That may not sound so unusual, but this is the most dialog-heavy book I've read for quite some time. There are generally only short paragraphs to set the scene or movements of the characters between conversations.
The book is set in a time when gay men had to be very discrete. Harassment by law enforcement was quite common, even if nothing illegal was happening and it was behind closed doors. This is all depicted in very believable detail. Notes at the end suggest that the story was very well-researched.
“Murder on Monte Vista” is available from Amazon.