Boystown 4 is a bleak but compelling gay mystery. It is listed as book 4 in a series, but works fine as a stand-alone, which is how I read it. The writing is clear, fast-paced, and stylistically minimalist. The vivid setting is Chicago as seen by someone who clearly knows the area well. The mystery itself is easily solved by the hero, but the consequences of him solving it are far-reaching and kept me turning pages to see how it would all work out.
The novel is not a romance, but works as a gritty period piece set in 1982 that shows a realistic view of pre-AIDs gay life. Main character Nick lives with a lover who has developed symptoms of the mysterious disease not yet classified as AIDs. Both men have accepted Nick’s decision to sleep around. Nick could be called selfish and exceedingly smug about his own attractiveness as he beds other men through the course of his investigation. It is proof of the author’s skill that Nick is also very likable for his intelligence, competence, and willingness to stand against corruption in high places.
The story opens when Nick receives a client, a flamboyant older man who wants him to find a lost lover. Nick is struggling to pay his bills as a private detective after being kicked off the Chicago police force when his sexual orientation came to light, so he eagerly takes the job. However, what appears to be a simple case leads Nick to murder and decades-old corruption on the highest levels of power in Chicago. Soon he’s in too deep on an investigation that may tear apart his life.