Saturday, August 27, 2011

Simple Justice by John Morgan Wilson

So, I had never heard of the Benjamin Justice mystery series and I'm not quite sure what led me to request this particular book from the library.  I was immediately drawn into this novel by John Morgan Wilson.

In the first of the series, a young man is murdered outside of a gay bar in Los Angeles.  A young Latino man is found kneeling over him and is arrested and charged with his murder. Perhaps most damning, he has has confessed to killing the young man that he has been found with.  The young man turns out to be related to a wealthy family and is also discovered to be a coke head. Benjamin Justice is a disgraced journalist - he had written a series for the LA Times that had won him prestigious awards and was soon discovered to have been completely made up - and also struggling with alcoholism and the loss of his partner.  He is asked by his former boss to look into the murder of the young man, so he does.

I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book when I first started it but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Mr. Wilson's writing style is simple and the novel is a quick read.  But appearances can be deceiving - this book is hardly shallow or simple.  Benjamin Justice is a character that is deep and has extensive mental and physical wounds and an intriguing back story and current struggle that quickly hooked me and made me want to know him more.  He was the sort of character that, if he were a real, live person, would be someone that I would take out to lunch or dinner in the hopes of learning more about him and his life experiences.  The cast of characters that flesh out the book are also memorable, although I found that some of them could be stereotypes - for instance, the brother of the young man charged with homicide is a colorful, homophobe complete with violence and guns.  He was so predictable and so stereotyped and that turned me off a little bit.  I did enjoy the issues that Mr. Wilson tried to take on in this book - the AIDS epidemic in the gay male community in LA, some homophobia (yes, the out and out violent type, but also the more subtle type - a woman who is obviously attracted to Ben Justice and is constantly making both physical and emotional passes at him in the hopes of changing him), the struggles of being in the closet.

Generally a pretty good read.

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