Murder on Camac – Joseph R.G. DeMarco (Lethe Press)

Buy it Now at Giovanni’s Room or at Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group.

A detective who owns a male strip club? Why not? I’m sure the P.I. business is suffering right along with everything else in today’s economy, so investigators need their extra sources of income. And as far as sidekicks go, you could do worse. Baretta had his cockatoo and … well, I’ll leave the pun to your imagination.

But Joseph DeMarco’s first Marco Fontana mystery, “Murder on Camac,” has more than scantily clad boys going for it. It’s a meaty whodunit involving the murder of one Helmut Brandt, an author investigating the death of Pope John Paul I – you know, the one who was Pope for about ten minutes before he died. Brandt has apparently stumbled onto some rather delicate Church secrets but gets gunned down on a Philly street before he can expose what he knows. Or is it something more mundane that caused his death? Brandt’s eye wandered from his older partner, Tim Hollister, more than once. Could it be a jealous lover that did him in? If I said more, I’d be spoiling it.

DeMarco’s prose is as fast-paced and dextrous as his plotting, and he wrings every bit of juice from even his minor characters as he puts them through their paces. But the star of the show is Marco Fontana, who can put together the pieces of the mystery as well as maintain StripGuyz, though he has help with the latter in the person of Anton, his right-hand man at the club. Anton also doubles as some romantic tension. Oh sure, they have great sex, but will they be the next Bogie and Bacall? Only another installment will tell.

Well-crafted and populated with interesting people, “Murder on Camac,” has just the right blend of strip club musk and Catholic intrigue to create a heady perfume just right for inhaling on a muggy Philadelphia night. Fill your lungs and don’t exhale until you’re sure who killed who.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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