on 15 March 2006
In Blind Eye, Benjamin Justice suffered a terrible beating, and ended up violently blinded in one eye. In Moth and Flame, the recovered Benjamin ended up solving the riddle of a complex murder in the city of West Hollywood. Now, in Rhapsody in Blood, Ben is accompanying his best friend, sassy African-American journalist Alexandra Templeton, to a once glamorous hotel just outside of Los Angles, in the town of Eternal Springs, where once again, Ben is plunged into murder, deception and intrigue.
In 1956, on the Ides of March, glamorous film star Rebecca Fox was murdered in the Haunted Springs Hotel. Blame is swift and brutal, Ed Jones, a young African American is immediately judged as the culprit and lynched at the local gaol by an angry mob led by the Ku Klux Clan. The government has since damned the valley for hydroelectric power and the poisoned and lifeless waters of Lake Enid now cover the town where the viscous killing took place.
However, the spirit of Ed Jones continues to haunt the area; new DNA evidence proves that the semen found on Rebecca Fox's panties was not that of Jones, and that he may have been innocent of the crime. The murder investigation is reopened, but things are complicated. An independent film on the events all those years go is currently under production starring some of Hollywood's hottest actors, and there's a new murder for Justice and Templeton to solve when Toni Pebbles, an aggressive and belligerent gossip columnist shows up, intent on outing one of the movie's stars.
Of course, Ben continues to be haunted by a scandal, which long ago cost him the Pulitzer Prize and his job as a journalist. Now 50, HIV positive, and existing mostly hand to mouth, Ben is still relies on Templeton and his older friends Maurice and Fred to keep him focused, but in this tale, Ben is mostly able to keep himself out of trouble. Still prone to foolish vanity, wishful thinking and the loneliness of a man pushing fifty who hasn’t hooked up with anyone for a while, Ben can't help but be attracted to sexy A-list movie star Christopher Oakley.
Author John Morgan Wilson keeps the action moving with a hectic plot and lots of wonderfully enigmatic characters. There's no doubt that Ben is an assiduously charming hero, his instincts are always finely tuned, and he still has the ineffable knack for getting to the heart of the story. But can he uncover the truth behind Rebecca Fox's murder and bring the real perpetrator to justice? There are so many possibilities, false leads, missing evidence, modus operandi, opportunity, motivation and all manner of deception.
Perhaps the answers to the riddle lie in the past, lost in a place that means something so different to so many of the characters and where nefarious motives and furtive shenanigans have been shrouded in secrecy for so many years. The themes are vital and relevant – the misogyny of rap music, life in the closet, the injustices of racism, and the fickleness of Hollywood. As Ben draws closer to the heart of the mystery surrounding Haunted Springs and the truth of what really happened in room 418, he must continue to live with his past in the way one lives with the nagging pain of an old injury that never fully heals. Mike Leonard March 06.