Murder Garden
by Ron Fritsch
Asymmetric Worlds

"From the moment life on [our lovely planet] began, it’s been a murder garden."

When Ted Linden arrives home one August afternoon after working in his bank job and visiting Chicago’s Art Institute, he finds his cherished young partner, Warren Hadley, sprawled amongst the phlox in his garden with a slashed throat. Just the day before, Warren’s homophobic brother, Darrel, paid the couple a visit and stated angrily that Warren was better off dead than gay. The couple threw Darrel out even as Warren described his brother’s bark as worse than his bite. Surely the murderer must be Darrel, Ted thinks.

After losing his job because of the incident, Ted sticks his own neck out further to openly and publicly declare his love for Warren. But fate takes a strange turn during Darrel’s trial, and Ted belatedly finds himself belatedly pegged by police as the primary suspect. Ted finds it unthinkable that an innocent gay man could be falsely convicted of murder. Despite the physical and circumstantial evidence implicating him in the crime, he resists hiring a lawyer.

This slim but evocative LGTBQ murder mystery provides quiet but pointed social commentary about the razor’s edge walked by both closeted gay men and the rare openly gay men of the 1950s and 1960s. The first-person narrative is intimate and draws readers quickly into Ted’s world as he grapples with the nuances of his dilemma. The writing is simple but succinct, with a literary flavor that makes the story feel classic and authentic. Fritsch develops the story and characters in the manner of a placid-looking stream that harbors hidden currents or a devastating undertow that engulfs the unwary. There is power beneath the surface of this story, and the author delivers the terrible blows to Ted Linden’s life with unexpected grace.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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