Title: Hidden Identity
Author: Adam Carpenter
Publisher: MLR Press
Cover Artist: Deana C. Jamroz
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
When Jimmy McSwain is hired to find missing heir Harris Rothschild, he finds that identities can be altered and lives can be changed–or taken with the simple pull of the trigger.
Jimmy McSwain is a New York City private detective, operating out of Hell’s Kitchen, the rough and tumble neighborhood he grew up in. At age fourteen, he watched as his NYPD father was gunned down. Now, at age twenty-eight, gay, Jimmy has never given up pursuit of whoever killed him. But a PI must make a living, and so he’s taken on the case of missing heir Harris Rothschild, whose overbearing father doesn’t approve of his “alternate” lifestyle.Tracking down Harris is easier than expected, but the carnage that follows isn’t. With a shocking murder on his hands, and a threat coming from some unforeseen person, Jimmy’s caseload is suddenly full, and very dangerous.
I am particularly fond of the detective sub-genre in the gay lit world, simply because it follows in a great tradition of such literature while offering, like Neil Plakcy’s superior “Mahu” series and Greg Herren’s Chanse MacLeod series, cops/private eyes who are gay. This very fact offers emotional opportunities for gay readers who continue to be largely ignored by the world of mainstream detective fiction.
What I particularly like about Adam Carpenter’s Jimmy McSwain is that he manages to be a Hell’s Kitchen tough guy—all Irish pubs and street-smart swagger—while also being a modern, gentle, show-tune loving gay guy. He has no shame at being gay, no doubts about his sexuality. I happen to know the neighborhood in New York where Jimmy’s life story is set, and also that it’s beginning to replace Chelsea as the new “young gay” neighborhood, just as Chelsea replaced the gay Greenwich Village of my twenties and thirties. Carpenter knows the city and captures the feel of it vividly and with a minimum of fuss. His fine writing pays homage to the noir novel, while keeping a crisp contemporary style that suits the time and place and characters. He largely avoids stereotypes and is one of those authors for whom every character is interesting and worth his effort.
Jimmy has baggage in the form of a dead father, whose murder he witnessed as a teenager. It was that murder that propelled him into being a detective. But he also has a loving family and a kinship network in the community that keep him anchored and largely happy. Again, in this he is like Plakcy’s Hawai’ian cop Kimo Kanapa’aka. In both instances the importance of family gives the narrative solid emotional grounding as well as a sense of authenticity.
I don’t want to delve into the actual plot of this book, because it is too interesting to give away any details. Let’s just say I liked McSwain easily and immediately. He’s a good guy and a smart detective. His damage doesn’t make him dysfunctional, even though it sets up hurdles for him of which he is painfully aware. His vulnerability on the romantic front just makes him more sympathetic, without in any way making him weak.
“Hidden Identity” isn’t an m/m novel—there are glimmers of romance, hopes of romance even, but that seems to be something that eludes Jimmy McSwain.For now, at least.
This is the first book in what clearly promises to be an excellent series. While it is a stand-alone story, there are threads that are left unraveled at the end, suggesting directions for the next volume’s narrative. Let’s hope Carpenter continues to deliver at this level of writing and plotting, because Jimmy McSwain has the potential to hold onto his readers for a good long time.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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