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Rhapsody in Blood: A Benjamin Justice Novel (Benjamin Justice Mysteries) Hardcover – March 7, 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
Book 7 of 8 in the Benjamin Justice Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For the seventh novel to feature gay, HIV-positive reporter Benjamin Justice (after 2004's Moth and Flame), Edgar-winner Wilson moves Justice out of his usual milieu of West Hollywood, whose sexual politics past books in the series have explored in depth, to a crumbling resort hotel on the edges of the high California desert. Justice accepts an offer from Alexandra Templeton, a reporter friend, to spend a weekend at the Haunted Springs Hotel—site of the rape and murder of movie star Rebecca Fox 50 years before, the lynching (the last one ever in California) of the black handyman charged with the crime and the suicide of Fox's daughter in the same hotel room 25 years later. These tragedies are linked to a present-day murder and the danger Justice and Templeton soon find themselves in. The fresh setting does much to reinvigorate Wilson's familiar ingredients. The series has received three Lambda Literary Awards. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Fallen journalist Benjamin Justice has been crawling out of his dark night of the soul via disciplined work on his autobiography. With the first draft in on time, he joins friend Alexandra Templeton for a brief getaway from months of troubled sleep and restless rewritings. Their first road trip takes them from West Hollywood to the California desert, where a gossip columnist is murdered on the set of a movie about the state's last lynching. The latest in Wilson's award-winning series of gay sleuthers delivers a mystery uncovering the truth about two old deaths as well as the recent killing, and, like the best Graham Greene "entertainments," prompts readers to contemplate the sociological microcosm of its setting as a commentary on the larger world. Whether pondering "the last bastion of homosexual shame and secrecy in Hollywood" constituted by the closeted careers of bankable gay romance and action stars or meditating on the revelatory importance of dreams and the alterable illusion of memory, Wilson's smooth writing reveals resonant layers of meaning. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Benjamin Justice Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (March 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312341474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312341473
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,595,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a fan of Morgan's "Benjamin Justice" series since the very start, I have had some silent misgivings about the direction in which he has taken the character in the past two novels, from a sexually-active, hard-drinking gay man to a more reclusive, one-eyed HIV+ man on the wagon who seems to dwell more on his past than live for the day. After some thought, I think my reaction is more a byproduct of the fact that I am aging as well, and somehow resented being reminded of it in seeing Benjamin slow down as well.

However, in his newest "Rhapsody in Blood," Morgan takes the character out of his cozy nest in West Hollywood, teaming him with longtime friend, LA Times reported Alexandra Templeton, covering the shooting of a movie at a historic hotel in the remote town of Eternal Springs, now known as Haunted Springs due to two murders that took place there, and which is the focus of the film. They meet the cast, including the 30ish male lead - a frequent subject of tabloid rumors about his sexuality - whose seeming interest in Benjamin has him simultaneously flattered and flustered. When another reporter, known for her merciless "expose'" stories about celebrities, is found murdered with her throat cut (the same as the two victims that are the subject of the film), Benjamin finds himself in the middle of the mystery, with no shortage of colorful suspects around to choose from. Was the murderer the actor, who feared the reporter would try to "out" him, or perhaps it was the rapper with the "gangsta" image who seemed to alienate everyone, or the troublemaker midget stuntman, the hotel owner living with a troubling secret from his past, or perhaps it was the ghostlike female figure Benjamin saw on the rocks outside the hotel window, right before the murder took place?
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Morgan Wilson's books have always been filled with beautifully drawn characters, especially his lead storyteller, Benjamin Justice. The stories are richly layered, and each one has become darker than the last. Rhapsody in Blood is as compelling as every other book in the way it gently but surely draws you into the mystery, but it's a definite departure from the world in which the other stories take place. Justice is lured away from Los Angeles for what is supposed to be a mountain resort getaway and gets pulled very quickly into a mystery that spans generations and leads to killing in a remote hotel occupied by a handful of people with many potential motives for murder. It's amazingingly engaging . . . a true page turner. It's also a pleasant sojourn from the rest of the Justice series -- by taking the action away from West Hollywood and the broader Los Angeles area it becomes a different kind of story, with less emphasis on Justice's downward psychological spiral and more on the characters around him. It might have been inspired, in part, by Chandler's The Lady in the Lake, given the sequestered setting and the layers of corruption that conceal what really happened in the 1950s murder that sets the current story on its course. And it should be a must-read for anyone who's drawn to character-driven mysteries that become more complex with every page. It's a unique -- and standout -- entry to this amazing series.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Benjamin Justice returns after having just finished his memoirs. He is fast approaching fifty, has a paunch but still has his elderly landlords Maurice and Fred, although they have very little to do with the plot of Wilson's latest. Justice and his good friend Alexander Templeton go to a resort hotel in a place called Haunted Springs; she to work on a story, he just along for the ride. Of course he takes with him Walter Mosley's CINNAMON KISS for reading. (Mr. Wilson always plays tribute to this other fine mystery writer by referring to him in each of his own mysteries.) What evolves of course is a tale that spans 50 years involving murder, suicide and lynching. There is a motley group of characters: a vicious reporter intent on "outing" someone in order to revive her sagging career; a gorgeous Adonis whom Justice develops an immediate crush on; a lippy midget stuntman; an out-of-control child actress who has made her fortune making "slasher" movies, a rapper who travels with a bodyguard; a hotel owner who insists on playing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" over and over, a piece that is much overplayed in these United States-- you actually can hear the piece and wish desperately half way through the novel that he would play something else-- a Latino detective on crutches, and several characters long since dead but who come to life as Justice gets involved in all that has happened at this strange hotel, plus a half dozen or so others.

Mr. Wilson works out the plot with intricate details and rather slowly, almost too slowly at times. There is not a murder until 100 pages into the story. We are pretty sure who is going to get taken out; and from the evidence that Justice sees, as he is the first person to view the crime scene, the list of suspects is narrowed down to two.
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