Murder in the Rue Dauphine, by Greg Herren
Chanse MacLeod used to be a New Orleans police officer. Now he's a private detective. One day, he's hired by a young gay man, Mike Hansen, to try to find, and stop, the person who is blackmailing Mike and his older, rich, closeted lover. Before Chanse can get his teeth into the case, though, Mike is murdered, and the words "Faggots die" is written in blood on the wall. Though MacLeod (and the police) believe that the murder is more likely connected to the blackmail, the leader of a local gay rights organization insists that it's a gay bashing, and begins to politicize the murder. Then MacLeod, and the victim's neighbor, are shot at by someone shouting "Die faggots", and he begins to wonder.
Now, I have to admit that I figured out a good bit of what was going on before the end, but, after all, I've been reading mystery novels for literally decades, so I have a pretty good idea of what to expect. But there were some twists and turns here, and I do appreciate the fact that Herren doesn't fall back on the culprit or culprits' confession to solve the case.
This being the first of a series of Chanse MacLeod mysteries, we get a fair bit of back story about Chanse and the woman in his life, his reporter friend Paige Tourneur. Chanse has also just begun a relationship with Paul, a flight attendant, and I thought Herren did a masterful job of showing Chanse's ambivalence about it, from worrying that Paul might have a boyfriend in every airport to the opposite worry that Paul might be falling in love before Chanse is ready.
There's a long list of writers in the acknowledgements, and many of them are people whose work I've enjoyed over the years*. So to know that people like Julie Smith and Dorothy Allison saw something in Herren's work was certainly an incentive to read this. They weren't wrong.
*Story! Several years ago, I wandered into the Faubourg Marigny Bookstore (and could someone please design them a website, please?) looking for a book to read on my flight home. I was looking specifically for a book by Katherine V. Forrest, which they didn't have. But the young man suggested that I try instead Death by the Riverside, by a local writer, J.M. Redmann. Great book, and ever since then I've been hooked on the concept of looking for local authors wherever I travel.