I haven’t tried DeMarco’s Vampire Inquisitor series, but I’m definitely a fan of his Marco Fontana stuff, so I was anxious to read Death on Delancey. The only thing that could be more exciting is if DeMarco has his next volume of queered Sherlock Holmes stories ready. But (he sighed), I’ll wait. In the meantime, Death on Delancey is a rip-snorter–maybe the best yet in the series.
Two of Philly’s most popular gay bartenders are found dead following a contest in which they were both entered. One won. Was it jealousy culminating in murder-suicide, or were other forces at work? That’s what Jonny Tate, local entrepreneur and rich sleazebag whose bar the winner worked at, hires Fontana to find out. Unbeknownst to Fontana, to make sure he comes to the correct conclusion, Tate agrees covertly to finance a restaurant Fontana’s brother wants to open up. The results surprise everyone involved, including the reader.
DeMarco, like many mystery writers, has discovered the secret to a successful series. Create an interesting, complex detective, surround him with colorful minor characters (in this case, Fontana’s Russian secretary Olga and information specialist Nina), kill one or two people off, and let them all do their jobs. Okay, it’s probably more complicated than that. But DeMarco makes it look easy. Effortless, in fact. His plotlines are sturdy and eminently believable, and he leaves no loose end untied.
And let’s talk about DeMarco’s action scenes–the climax here is definitely worthy of mention, involving a not-so-innocent bystander who is not used to all this private eye business. The tension in this scene is absolutely delicious, and it’s the perfect capper. If there was a fault, it’s the mysterious red-headed woman who appears, is explained, and then disappears again without being involved in the plot as much as the reader is led to believe she will be. But the dinner at Marco’s mother’s house to celebrate his brother’s entrance into the restaurant business more than makes up for it. Mama Fontana is so much like other Italian women of that generation that I don’t need a description to see her. Her wit and charm is as abundant as the spread she puts out for the party.
But, really, there’s nothing about Death on Delancey that isn’t fun–and DeMarco also puts Philadelphia up front and center, displaying a knowledge of the city only a local would have, and that translates beautifully. So, if you’ve not read one of the Marco Fontana series before, this is a great place to start. If you have, you’ll know how involving they can be, so set aside some time and let Joe DeMarco take you to Philly.
© 2014 Jerry L. Wheeler