Billionaire’s Row by Sullivan Wheeler
Detective Michael Weiss has enough to deal with. Between being part of a disfunctional police department and having a vain and demanding lover who Michael suspects is only using him for personal gain, it’s all Michael can do to keep himself sane. When the body of Craig Davies, a wealthy defense lawyer, is found on former television star Sam Christiansen’s front lawn, Michael knows that everyone—his bosses, his partner at the police department, and Brian, his lover—will be looking to him for solutions.
Despite a quick solution that results in a dead suspect, the case turns out to be much more complex than it first appears. Michael uncovers a twisted web of relationships, a web that inexorably draws him into a passionate tangle of love and greed where more and more people are turning up dead. It’s critical that Michael find justice for Sam as their attraction grows… but it will take a back seat to keeping them both alive.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Several reviews have mentioned that Billionaire’s Row is a decent police procedural but it’s not romantic suspense. That’s a perfect description of the story and actually one reason that I enjoyed it. The murder mystery is pretty well depicted with a lot of possible suspects and enough clues for the savvy to pick out the culprit but not in an obnoxious way. I guessed who did it early on but still enjoyed the process of watching the characters figure it out. The anemic romance between Sam and Michael is best ignored since it feels like an afterthought. I’d recommend this to those looking for a decent murder mystery story and nothing else.
The story begins with a typical dead body up in the rich part of south Florida known as Billionaire’s Row. Detective Michael Weiss is assigned the case and he’s a rather typical cop as well. He’s an alcoholic, closeted guy in this thirties, disappointed in his life and hiding in alcohol. He’s sleeping with a local news anchor, Brian, in a loose relationship that is served by Michael getting sex and Brian getting insider tips. Though everyone seems to want to close the case with flimsy evidence, Michael can’t help digging deeper and it just may be hazard to his health.
The real thrust of the story told from Michael’s third person point of view is the murder and whodunit. As I said there are enough clues to figure it out but the story is thankfully subtle and clever in letting the reader question and wonder. Even though I figured it out, the process is interesting and the writing engaging enough to want to continue. The best strengths are that this is at the heart, a hard boiled police procedural with a main character that happens to be gay. The ins and outs of the mystery are well crafted for the most part and the only real bump comes with the ending. The final 20 pages tries to tie up the loose ends way too easily and the explanations leap the shark.
The characterization is good and well developed but what may turn some readers off is that none of the characters are particularly likable. Michael is the driving force and given the most depth but he remains an alcoholic cop, scared out being outed and deeply unhappy with his life. He ignores his family, his partner, his own depression, and drinks heavily for the majority of the story. He thinks with his dick and gets involved with Sam out of combined lust and hero worship but never really justifies why Sam supposedly loves him. Their relationship feels manipulated for the purposes of adding weak romance rather than honest.
Personally I didn’t mind Michael or Sam, although Sam is bland and somewhat boring since he’s given so little importance for the most part. Michael has all the hallmarks of classic cops in these types of books and never really steps out of that. The cast of supporting characters range in the same boxed stereotypes but again, this is what I expected picking up the book so it delivered exactly what I thought it would. The various details and clues about the murder are good and well crafted into the story with subtly but enough to catch them. There are several hanging details at the end though I wish the story had cleared up and I’m curious if there will be a sequel involving these characters. For the most part the writing is decent with a good pace and keeps the pages going quickly.
If you’re hoping for a romantic suspense, then this will definitely disappoint. It’s more gay fiction/police procedural than anything else. If you’re looking for a decent to good murder mystery story then I’d suggest this. Just be sure to go into it with the right expectations.
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