Saturday, October 18, 2008

"The Fisher Boy" by Stephen Anable (Book Review)

This first foray into the world of fictional writings by Stephen Anable is set on Cape Cod, mostly in Provincetown. The town, with a gay resort, an art colony, and a working fishing port, offers a colorful backdrop to this murder mystery. Mark Winslow, the naive and inquisitive protagonist with a working-class pedigree, and a Boston improvisational actor, arrives with his troupe, ready to try and break into the cliquish town's club circuit. Soon Winslow encounters some motley people--Republican gays who attended snotty prep schools; Bible-thumping, anti-gay Christian soldiers; a ravishing, controlling houseboy with a secret; slightly hysterical summer residents, and of course, young, blond-hair people who pan-handles and who claim to be from a Scandinavian ship. Then there is the mystery of a local painter who disappeared some eighty years ago after founding a utopian community near Provincetown.

Most readers, in my estimate, would find the first half of this novel somewhat languid, even slow going. It seems the author took his time to develop his characters--some of which are over the top and therefore a little implausible--and plot. And it seems to me that the author paid more attention to the setting than anything else. Also, some pruning would have helped, particularly in the diction department. In particular, I think he overdid the use of adjectives, thus slowing down the pace of a mystery novel, which by definition has a certain rapid pace.

The second half of the book is so much better. Once the murder of a Boston blueblood (conveniently someone whom Mark has had a sexual, and love-hate relationship with in the past) is discovered, and Mark becomes the prime suspect (arising from a public fight he had with the deceased) the twists and turns begin. Unexpected relationships are revealed between the characters that will surprise most readers. Then the inevitable question arises: does the earlier disappearance of that well-known local painter and the story behind his masterpiece, "The Fisher Boy," point in the direction of solving the murder of Winslow's old friend cum nemesis?

Read this book if you enjoy mystery novels with more than a few gay twists and a panoply of colorful, if albeit semi-stereotypical , queer characters.

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