Title: Fadeout (Dave Brandstetter mysteries, book 1)
Author: Joseph Hansen
Cover artist: N/A
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Amazon: Buy Link Fadeout: A Dave Brandstetter Mystery (paperback only, the book is available as ebook in PDF format from the publisher)
Length: 190 pages
Rating : 5+stars out of 5, DIK
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: This is the first book in the series of well known mysteries featuring insurance investigator Dave Brandsetter. The book is really really good 🙂
Fadeout is the first of Joseph Hansen’s twelve classic mysteries featuring rugged Dave Brandstetter, an insurance investigator who is contentedly gay. When entertainer Fox Olson’s car plunges off a bridge in a storm, a death claim is filed, but where is Olson’s body? As Brandstetter questions family, fans, and detractors, he grows certain Olson is still alive and that Dave must find him before the would-be killer does. Suspenseful and wry, shrewd and deeply felt, Fadeout remains as fresh today as when it startled readers more than thirty years ago.
First and foremost I would like to say that I think the blurb is perfect. It gives you the initial set up of the mystery, briefly reminds the readers that those books are well known and that’s about it. I liked it.
I discovered these books from Teddy Pig’s blog. I bought the first book in paperback, realized that there is a complete collection in one book, quickly bought it for a very decent price on Amazon. Now the complete edition seems to be out of print, and of course third party sellers charge crazy prices, but the separate books are available in paperback on Amazon. The first two books are also available as ebooks directly from the publisher and apparently on Nook and Cobo as well, but not on Amazon. I hope the whole series will be reissued for Kindle one day, I really do.
I actually did not start reading this book for a very long time. You know how you have heard so much about a book and you are afraid to be disappointed? Well, needless to say I was not disappointed at all. The book sucked me in from the very first passage, literally.
“Fog shrouded the canyon, a box canyon above a California ranch town called Pima. It rained. Not hard but steady and gray and dismal. Shaggy pines loomed through the mist like threats. Sycamores made white, twisted gestures above the arroyo. Down the arroyo water pounded, ugly, angry and deep. The road shattered the arroyo. It was a bad road. The rain had chewed its edges. There were holes. Mud and rock half buried it in places. It was steep and winding and there were no guard rails.
He drove it with sweating hands. Why? His smile was sour. Why so careful? Wasn’t death all he’d wanted for the past six weeks? His mouth tightened. That was finished. He’d made up his mind to live now. Hadn’t he? Live and forget – at least until he could remember without pain. And that would happen someday. Sure it would. All the books said so. The sum of human wisdom. Meantime, he was working again”.
I do not know about you, but these introductory passages transported me right away into this bleak landscape and portrayed a strong person who is almost overwhelmed by grief and still fights hard to not be completely overwhelmed to the point of no return. I could not stop reading.
I am sure you understood when you saw the grade that this whole review is not a critical one, but I just cannot help myself, with every introduction of new characters, with every twist and turn in the plot I could not help but think – this is one of the best executions of this thing and this thing, and this one again. Of course by now I have read enough gay romances, gay romantic mysteries and other subgenres with gay protagonists, so some ideas felt familiar, but as I said I just felt that Joseph Hansen wrote pretty much a perfect story and I had to keep reminding myself that as blurb stated he wrote it more than thirty years ago.
For example, when we meet Dave, we are not treated to a long and boring exposition as to how he looks and what happened in his past, instead the passage I quoted previously already sets up his mood and actually an overall bleak mood for the whole story very well. When Dave interviews one of the witnesses, we are given some details of his appearance and age and some things which come up during the interview make his mind wander and we learn something more about his past. I thought it was really well done.
I really liked how his character was revealed more and more throughout the investigation, throughout his actions, not just through his thoughts. I liked how we slowly learned how strong he is, how very compassionate he is and I really liked his sense of humor in those few situations when Dave actually showed it to the reader. I also thought that while the story is of course a mystery first and foremost, the love story in his past is one of the most beautiful and poignant that I have ever read about in this genre, period. Unfortunately I grew to think that when in a mm book protagonist recalls the love story in his past, I would be bound to feel emotionally removed from the story. Boy was I wrong here, because emotionally removed from what Dave was remembering was so NOT what I was feeling. I was so very sad for him, but also happy that he had such a great love in his past.
The mystery he investigated seemed simple enough, but it was not predictable at all, not for me anyway. It was very well paced and I could not guess the villain or the result of the investigation. I thought that each and every one of the characters no matter how secondary they were in the story were acting believably and realistically, close to how I thought real people would act in those situations. I also think that in a sense the mystery went a little bit off the given path, because while Dave managed to catch the killer, in a sense he failed; without talking spoilers here, he fell to achieve the goal which he had when he just started his investigation. Those of you who have read or will read the story will know what I am talking about.
I also really enjoyed that despite the overall bleak atmosphere, things ended on somewhat hopeful note for Dave and cannot wait to read a second book.