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Behind the gates

Cover of Lavender House
A review of Lavender House by Lev Rosen

In 1952 San Francisco, police detective Evander "Andy" Mills has been able to keep his sexual orientation, as a gay man, under wraps, until now. A raid on a gay nightclub has caught him in its web and he's lost his job and every "friend" he thought he had on the force. At a loss as to what comes next, he's contemplating a very bad decision while half-tanked in a bar, when he's approached by a glamorous woman named Pearl. She offers a deal he can't pass up. Pearl tells him that her wife, soap magnate, Irene Lamontaine has died and Pearl thinks her death was murder. Knowing that she can never approach the police and let them know her relationship with Pearl, she has come to Andy. She wants him to come to Lavender House and investigate.

What Andy finds at the estate is a found family of queer people who have formed relationships that work for them but must remain hidden from the world. And while Andy is fascinated by this safe haven they've created for themselves, he begins to realize that all is not paradise and many of them have other secrets. Secrets that may have been worth killing for. His investigation allows him not only to explore other ways of being himself, but forces him to examine past choices.

This is an intriguing whodunnit, but more interestingly, a fascinating historical novel that delves into the impossible lives of the characters and the sometimes terrible choices they have to make, when their very existence may be a crime, just to survive. Nicely done.

Jun 1, 2023