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Allusion is not Illusion

You'll pry my books off my cold, dead body. By the time you shift them all I'll be flat and dessicated.

Currently reading

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The Affair of the Porcelain Dog - Jess Faraday It says something about today's publishing market that someone thought this would sell better billed as m/m romance than as what it really is: a mystery. Yes, there are homosexuals in the book, but if you go in expecting either Hott Sexxxy Times or Love Conquering All Odds you will be gravely disappointed. What you will get instead is Ira Adler running (or walking, or riding in carriages) around various mostly grimy parts of London trying to figure out who is blackmailing his crime lord lover/employer Goddard Cain and where the evidence is hidden. As he investigates, Ira is drawn into a wider web of mysteries, secrets, and crimes involving various figures from his and Goddard's separate pasts. The more he learns, the more Ira finds himself questioning his relationship with Goddard and the ethical choices that they have both made.

This is in some ways also a (forgive-the-phrase!) coming-of-age story. Ira was a young prostitute when Goddard decided to "employ" him as his "secretary." Two years later the men are emotionally close in some ways, but their relationship is a very unequal one. The money, power, education, and contacts are all Goddard's and Ira is as much his employee as his lover. Ira got luxury and safety in exchange for fidelity and obedience. This seemed like a better deal than selling himself for a paltry fee and risking venereal disease, but the more he finds out about exactly what criminal activities finance his lover's nice house and servants, the more uncomfortable he becomes. Could Goddard possibly love him enough to change his ways? And if not, is Ira strong enough to walk away?

Faraday strikes an excellent balance between traditional mystery-investigating activity (guarded conversations, spontaneously brawls, a little burglary) and personal and interior concerns. There are plenty of plots twists (if not particularly startling ones) for mystery fans, and by the end of the story I really felt like I had watched Ira grow, without feeling overwhelmed with angst or self-absorption. Crime and prostitution are neither glamorized nor voyeuristically dwelt over; rather, they are unhappy facts of life for people without money, families, or legal protection. Life is rough and people make the best of it -- or not -- and face the consequences.