Sixteen years after this 1992 story, and forced outing remains a hot button in gay politics. When an activist's claims that men he's outed are stalking him don't ring true, Albany's only gay PI drops his protection detail - and the client winds up dead. Strachey peels back the layers of his client's double cross only to find...a triple cross.
This fourth mystery to feature Donald Strachey, a gay private investigator in Albany, N.Y., is nothing if not au courant. In the first five pages, readers encounter a gay-bashing incident, a patient dying of AIDS and activists wearing Queer Nation T-shirts.But the punch and distinctive voice of the earlier books are diminished here: it's as if Stevenson is overly concerned with political statements. Fearing for his life, writer/activist John Rutka--determinedly engaged in ``outing'' prominent citizens--retains Strachey when a bullet grazes his foot, but Strachey abandons the case when he suspects that the incident was staged. Soon our hero has a real mystery on his hands: Rutka is found dead, and any number of people might have cheerfully dispatched him. Rutka's files point to a particularly sinister closeted homosexual whom Strachey must unmask. Though the book's final third shifts into gear, it's not high enough; if a polemic was intended, the fuel gauge reads ``low.'' At one point Strachey is ``weary of all the secrecy and duplicity and dreary bitchery''--more of those very qualities might have at least jazzed up this rather pallid effort.