RARA-AVIS: Joseph Hansen 1st impressions: "Early Graves"

From: Burridge, Stephen ( stephen.burridge@hp.com)
Date: 07 Mar 2005

Hansen's another writer whose work I didn't know. I read "Early Graves", a relatively late (late '80s) Dave Brandstetter novel, in which the AIDS epidemic is a central concern. I found it an enjoyable read, with what I thought was a quite decent plot. The murder victim is an interesting character, imo.

I haven't read many stories set in the gay subculture. This is definitely the world Brandstetter inhabits most of the time, and I found it interesting both as a slightly exotic setting and as an explanation for the alienation and some of the conflicts that affect Brandstetter and other characters.

Brandstetter's personal life is developed in what I would say amounts to a subplot. The reader is adequately brought up to speed on the situation he's in with his lover, but it would probably be more satisfying to have read earlier book(s), in which the development of the relationship is presumably described, first.

Reading an earlier book would probably be a better way to get a handle on the Brandstetter character as detective, and his attitudes to society, etc, as well. In "Early Graves" he's famous and successful, has good relations with the cops, and lots of money, apparently inherited. He's persistent and individualistic, thinking for himself, like most fictional PIs, I suppose. He's not a cynic, but someone who is willing to take emotional risks and who still retains a faith in human nature, though few illusions.

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