Title: Death by Misfortune
Author: AM Riley
Genre: Detective mystery
URL: MLR Books
Other Information/warnings: Violence, references to abuse and BDSM, explicit m/m sexual content
Summary [from the publisher]:
After a glamorous studio party, “Psychic to the Stars” Sylvie Black is found murdered in her fortune telling booth, a blood soaked tarot reading spread out before her. Shortly afterwards, the high-profile director who was about to produce Ms. Black’s ‘tell-all’ Hollywood screenplay, is found murdered as well. Closeted Homicide detective, Bill Turner, and his partner, Kate Crandall, find themselves sorting through a cast of likely suspects, who all seem to have secrets worth killing for. They soon run up against the studio rumor mill, and Jeremy Reilly, a young studio AD determined to protect their prime suspect.
Bill Turner first appeared in Amor en Retrogrado, a book I enjoyed a good deal despite the cruddy editing and the swinging POV. This is a much better book, and Turner, while still a closeted, misanthropic son of a bitch, is very slowly settling down in his relationship with Christopher and his working partnership with the about to be married Kate Crandall.
This is a book which could be a film very easily, and given the subject matter, that’s fitting. Hollywood doesn’t exactly come over as a nice place, but then I doubt anyone thinks it is. The incestuous, even parasitic relationship between key players in the industry – and in this book – make for uncomfortable reading. I’ve seen reviews of this book which downrated it because of the apparent unlikeability of Becket Russell, the neurotic overstressed assistant director to the sexually insatiable enfant terrible , and his assistant and would-be lover, Jeremy Reilly. Certainly their relationship on the surface appears exploitative, but it’s really not that simple. And that’s what I love so much about Riley’s books – nothing is ever that simple. Nothing and no one is black and white.
There is a cast of quirky, secretive characters such as the entertainment reporter with a nose for scandal, Derek Stuart, and Leslie Parker, Jeremy’s bitchily efficient and loyal assistant, as well as several knotty relationships and friendships. Turner and Crandall have to pick through and at times, autopsy these connections, while Kate plans her wedding, and Turner desperately tries to find excuses to avoid taking a partner to it, while trying not to lose Christopher to impatience with his refusal to come out to his colleagues. There’s a lot going on in this story, and lots of red herrings. I simply adored it, and Bill, and even Becket and Jeremy because both men are damaged and they find a strange kind of healing in each other, despite the unpromising signs.
Riley is a wonderful writer and this time, the editing is up to the standard of the prose. Her writing is tighter, more disciplined in this, and she keeps control on the twisty plot with ease. Whether it’s tense personal interaction, bitchiness between on set personnel, sex scenes, or action sequences, all are handled with skill and vivacity. It’s a mystery to me as great as what Bill and Kate has to solve why this author is not a major selling author. Given that she instead graces the small m/m niche, I can only suggest you take advantage and read everything of hers you can get your hands on. Death by Misfortune should be close to the top of your shopping list.