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Ernesto Spinelli is an internationally recognised theorist, lecturer and practitioner. He is director of ES Associates.


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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Quite curious this mixture of P.I. with comic books, romance, and even psychology from Dr Freud. Interesting
Caxur | Jul 5, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Member Giveaways.
Cruel Love Ways is a whodunit mystery story that has a thread of the psychological thriller running through it. Unlike the gothic horror that gets its unsettling vibe from the supernatural, this book draws on and knits together elements of philosophy, psychology, psychoanalysis, Queer Theory, and fundamentalist Christianity. Odd as it may seem, this combination works in terms of creating unusual and complex characters which also are believable and allows for the construction of a suspenseful mystery.

When I first started reading this book and realized that it was written by someone living in the UK but writing about an American private investigator, I was concerned that the book was likely to turn into a flat and uncreative story that reads like a 1940s dime store mystery. By the time that the first murder occurred, it was undeniable that the book is nothing of the sort and that the unusual twists and turns in the plot keep taking the book further and further away from the stereotypical murder story I anticipated. This review will not discuss plot details to avoid spoilers.

There were two aspects of this book that I found to stand out in terms of being well-done. The first is that the mystery plot has suspense and is not predictable. While some of the twists and turns are very unusual and unlikely to occur in real life, they are not impossible. It could be said that most of the characters live on the very fringes of mainstream society and some of them have occasionally stepped over the boundaries. As it seems, plot twists that are unpredictable but believable make for a good mystery. Highly conventional thinkers may feel that certain revelations about the characters later in the book stepped too far outside of the social norms to make for a good story but, I suspect that most readers will accept the “shocker” revelations as giving the story punch. The other outstanding aspect of the book is that it is a historical mystery set in the late 1980s and setting the scene for this time period was done exceptionally well. While middle-aged readers such as myself may bock at the idea that a story written in this time period is historical fiction, the world has changed a lot since 1988. It was an era before cell phones and the internet. Compact Disks were a new thing and people were still watching movies on VHS tapes. The sexual revolution of the 1960s had ended and the world was in the grips of fear over AIDS and HIV which, in the 1980s was called by some “the gay plague”. While Millennial readers can gain a sense of what it was like to live in the 1980s, Gen-X and Baby Boomer readers will appreciate how much the world has changed in what seems to be a relatively short period of time.

The main weakness is that the momentum of the mystery plot sagged in a few places in the middle of the story. This is particularly true with sub-plots involving the characters of Bill Downie and Nora. To be brief, these characters introduced extensive dialogue around issues such as being transgendered, being sexually non-binary and Queer theory in general. While the discussions were informative and thought-provoking and also highly relevant to many of the discussions that occurred during the 1980s, they were a bit too involved and detailed considering that the novel is a murder mystery. In general, murder mysteries are a relatively fast-paced genre with a little less introspection and philosophizing than what was found in the book. The impact of this is that there were places in the book where I actually lost track of what was happening with the mystery and wondered if the characters might have forgotten about it too and got a little too caught up in their own thoughts and debates. It’s not the topic of the tangents that is the problem but the degree to which they distracted from the story that is problematic. It is because of the loss of momentum in the plotline in the middle of the book that I can’t give it a full five stars. However, four stars reflect the fact that the story did get back on track and proved to be worth reading.

Most mystery-lovers will enjoy reading this book. I think that those who are interested in books set in the 1980s, those interested in LGBTQ+ fiction and those who like mysteries and other fiction with a psychological thread in them will also find the book rewarding.
… (mere)
DonnaEFrederick | Mar 28, 2021 |




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