On the Other Hand, Death

by Richard Stevenson

Donald Stratchey Mystery Series

MLR Press

Gay Mystery

ISBN 978-1-934531-43-3

Reviewed by Cassie



When developer Crane Trefusis calls to offer him a job, private detective Donald Strachey isn’t sure he should accept.  Strachey’s heard rumors about Trefusis’ business practices, and the man comes across as manipulative and sneaky.  Still, when he discovers Trefusis wants him to look into some vandalism at the home of Dot Fisher, a sweet old lesbian woman, and her partner, Strachey finds himself torn.  Trefusis’ company wants to buy Dot’s home to build a mall, and the whole situation seems suspicious.  Finally, Strachey agrees to take the case for his own reasons.  Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that the case is going to be a lot more complicated than a bit of vandalism…

On the Other Hand, Death was one of those books that I had a hard time getting into at first, but once I did, I was quickly drawn into the mystery.  One thing that held me back when I started reading was lack of familiarity with the setting.  Albany in the Eighties is way out of my realm of experience.  I also felt as if I was kind of thrown into the story without being given background info, which may have been because this is apparently the second in the series?  It looks like the books will be published in no particular order, which bugs the heck out of my inner anal-retentive.

Fortunately, I was patient and kept reading.  Once I really got into On the Other Hand, Death, I found it to be a worthy mystery with a bit of relationship angst on the side.  Donald Strachey is a very contradictory character.  He’s basically one of the good guys, yet at times his methods are dubious at best.  Sometimes he’s incredibly cynical and other times he’s hopeful.  The biggest contradiction involves his lover—he loves Timmy and doesn’t want to lose him, but a lot of the things he does seem to show just the opposite.  Despite wanting to kick Strachey on several occasions, I couldn’t help but like him.  While Timmy doesn’t get a huge amount of face time, he’s a sweet guy who tries to help whenever he can.  The other characters—including Dot and Edith, the elderly lesbian couple, two organizers of the gay national strike, several police officers, and quite a few others—are a fascinating bunch as well.  The mystery had a surprising amount of depth.  What began as a mean but simple act of vandalism soon spirals into a much more serious situation.  I don’t want to spoil the story by revealing too much, so I’ll just say that while I figured out part of the solution, Richard Stevenson’s twists were unpredictable enough to keep me from getting bored or figuring everything out too soon.  If you’re in the mood for a good mystery with a fascinatingly flawed gay sleuth, On the Other Hand, Death is well worth a read.


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