February 22nd, 2011

andrew potter

Best LGBT Mystery / Thriller (3° place): The Definitive Albert J. Sterne by Julie Bozza

This is not an easy novel and not only for the sheer length of it, almost 700 pages in a publishing industry that is mainly targeting more or less 200 pages to allow people to read it in one, maximum two sittings. But once you go over the length, and start reading it, it’s not its length that will “disturb” you, but the ability of the author to give deepness to every characters, even the less important ones, like Ricardo, the hustler, or the more unlikely like the villain. When you read about a killer, you have the hope, or the wish, that the villain is someone crazy, someone that cannot be controlled, and someone that will commit a mistake that will allow the good ones to throw him in a cell for the rest of his life. Having a killer that is, in a way, colder than the cold FBI agents, is scaring, unsettling, troubling.

From the title and the first chapter, the reader is expecting for Albert Sterne to be the only focus of the author; having a main character, the hero, that is not a nice man, is not something original; in a way the best heroes are the one that don’t want to be that. Albert apparently is a cold blooded bastard, a forensic for the FBI who is able to not let his feelings intruding his job, since, as all his colleagues believe, he has not feelings at all. But the author is soon ready to refute this theory letting Albert interacts with a young hustler, Ricardo, and we, as readers, see a different side of Albert, a side his colleagues are not able to see.

Not long after that the second main character, Fletcher Ash, enters the scene, and in a way he will gain the same importance, if not more, of Albert in the story, even if he has not his name in the title. The two men develop a relationship that is probably the best thing of the story (at least for me) and that allowed me to go on with it, even when, sincerely, I was despairing in doing so due to the first thing I said, I didn’t want to “feel” for the killer, I didn’t want for their to have a cold and thought about plan, I wanted for their to be totally crazy. And he was not.

The prologue of the story dates back in 1971, but the main core is between 1981 and 1985. I don’t think it was a casual choice for the author, these were the years when the AIDS plague made its appearance (and there is even a moment when the two main characters share the “safe sex” info); before AIDS having unprotected sex with strangers (if you were both men) was maybe not healthy safe, but it was not a death sentence. I think the fear for AIDS, even if it’s not really the engine behind the killer motivation, allows the reader not only to explain the craziness of their action, but also the reticence of both Albert than Fletcher to fully fall into their relationship. Something that, when one of them will need support and love, they will totally forget and they will be rewarded by their dear ones who will not deny them as a couple.

I’m not sure this book by Julie Bozza is good for everyone, the most squirming reader will probably want to avoid it. But if you want a very good psychological thriller, of the old fashioned type, I can fully recommend this one.


Reading List: http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bottom.php?tag=reading list&view=elisa.rolle