Elon Green is a thorough investigator and fantastic nonfiction writer, and in his first book, he has found a way to hook you in with the hunt for a serial murderer -- who came to be known as “The Last Call Killer” -- while he pulls you through a fascinating exploration of the lives of the killer’s victims and the gay social scene of Manhattan in the late 80s and early 90s.
Green uses the stories and memories of the men and women from that era in the service of giving the reader a deeper understanding of the staggering obstacles gay men faced during that period of time. The AIDs epidemic was out of control and leading to heavy losses, and the stigma of being LGBTQ+ was so strong and potentially life-destroying that many gay men resorted to hiding their true sexuality and visiting gay bars in order to seek sexual companionship -- a tragic combination.
Worse yet, as this novel elucidates, those bars had a history of being infiltrated by good-looking undercover cops prepared to arrest gay men for solicitation. And gay men were being physically attacked on the streets, while the police and the courts turned their backs to the violence.
The unfolding of the evidence, and the chase to find the killer, keeps the tension high, and the lives of the victims are presented in such an interesting way, that it’s easy to fly right through the 230-page book and get upset that you’ve reached the end.
My assumption is that a conscious decision was made to focus only on the victims, rather than the killer, which I fully respect. But I do wonder if more exploration could have been done around the killer’s psychological profile or motivations, given that the individual is a product of both his own sexual inclinations and the zeitgeist of that period of time.
Regardless, this was a fun, interesting and eye-opening read that I highly recommend to anyone interested in LGBTQ+ rights and issues, True Crime or a historical period of time in the U.S. that, sadly, was not that long ago.
I also want to mention that Celadon is fast becoming my favorite publisher. They continue to choose smart books that elevate genres. Thank you, Celadon, for the ARC!