One doesn’t have to have lived in or even visited New Orleans to appreciate a J.M. Redmann mystery, but if one has, the experience is all the richer because a standard character in every Redman mystery is the city that time forgot.
Redmann’s latest, Death of a Dying Man, was written in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the toll that disaster took on both Redmann and her work is apparent in her rather gut-wrenching acknowledgments.
I mention this because the fact that writers like Redmann continued to write as their city was nearly taken back by the sea and left to drown by the government is an extraordinary feat. If there’s such a thing as literary courage, then every Gulf Coast writer impacted by Katrina deserves a medal for moving forward and keeping pen to paper. Death of a Dying Man is as seamless as Redmann’s other work—despite what it took to finish the book.
The latest in her series of Micky Knight mysteries, Redmann sets the tough-talking, soft-hearted Knight up against a formidable missing persons case which soon turns into murder, as well as saddling her with a complicated new assistant, freelance journalist Shannon Wild.
Knight’s lover, Dr. Cordelia James, has begun working with Dr. Laura Calder, who is delving into areas of research that would benefit James’ clientele. Calder has come to New Orleans with her younger lover, Wild, who propositions Knight at their very first dinner together–with both women’s partners mere inches away.
The sexual tension adds one more layer of complexity to a case Knight wasn’t sure she wanted: to find the possible—but missing—heir of a wealthy and dying gay club owner.
Like other books in the series, Redmann’s pacing is sharp, her sense of place acute and her characters well crafted. The story has a definite edge, raising some discomfiting questions about the selfishly unsavory way some gay men and lesbians live their lives and what the consequences of that behavior can be.
Redmann isn’t all edge, however—she’s got plenty of sass. Knight is funny, her relationship with Cordelia is believably long-term-lover sexy and little details of both the characters’ lives and New Orleans give the atmosphere heft. (One exchange that underscores this believability made us laugh. Micky and a friend argue over whether the Saints will ever win. Of course they did win the 2010 Superbowl, to which we can only say to Micky the naysayer: “Who dat?”)
—— DEATH OF A DYING MAN
By J.M. Redmann Bold Strokes Books
Paperback, $16.95, 228 p.