The Bell in the Fog
reviewed by Warner Holme
Lev AC Rosen’s “The Bell in the Fog” is a sequel to his prior work, “Lavender House.” Readers reunite with Evander Mills, often called Andy, as he navigates his role as the only known gay private detective in San Francisco. This premise provides an inclusive narrative within an intriguing, almost singular setting.
The first page sets the thematic tone, observing that “no one at a gay bar wants to get too close to a cop.” Business is slow for Andy initially, due to skepticism and the novelty of his profession. A figure from his past, who remains deeply closeted, surfaces seeking help. Despite their strained history, Andy, recognizing his financial needs, is drawn into what first appears to be a simple blackmail case. But when bodies begin to appear and mysterious twins become integral to the investigation, solving the initial case might only mark the beginning of Andy’s challenges.
Rosen’s portrayal of Andy, a former cop, ingeniously highlights the many ways an individual might neglect societal obligations, especially towards marginalized communities. Now distanced from the police, Andy is cautious about drawing their attention. This sentiment resonates with queer individuals and minorities familiar with varying law enforcement dynamics globally. Andy’s introspective moments allow him to reassess past decisions, prompting readers to delve into not only the mistakes made but also potential alternative actions. His inaction, like refraining from alerting others about an impending raid, haunts him. Meanwhile, a past lover, whom Andy collaborates with in this tale, grapples with similar dilemmas, emphasizing the overarching theme of self-preservation versus morality.
Far from being a concluding chapter, this novel arguably establishes a more immersive world for characters like Andy Mills, Lee, and Elsie in the 1952 San Francisco gay scene.
This installment, while a solid continuation of the series, further emphasizes the unfolding episodic narrative. Rich characters, hidden truths, and fresh dilemmas saturate its pages. While it’s a treat for fans of the inaugural book, newcomers can also appreciate it as a standalone read. Perfect for aficionados of historical, queer fiction, or those seeking an intricate mystery, this book is a commendable choice.
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