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Simple Justice (Benjamin Justice Mysteries) Hardcover – July 1, 1996
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A killing outside a West Hollywood gay bar called The Out Crowd is what brings reporter Benjamin Justice out of a long, boozy funk in what looks to be the start of a lively, literate new series. Justice blew a Pulitzer when an article about two AIDS victims turned out to be fiction. Now, carrying that and other wounds, he gets the chance to pull himself together by helping another reporter look into the political and social implications of the murder.
From Publishers Weekly
The noir L.A. trappings that surround gay journalist Benjamin Justice are as thick as the plot of this fiction debut is thin. After an abusive childhood, the disgrace of handing back a Pulitzer Prize, a cherished lover dead from AIDS and several years on the sauce, Ben is suddenly handed a much-needed second chance from Harry Brofsky, his old editor. A young man has been killed outside a gay bar in West Hollywood, and Ben is soon back to a life he left behind, cruising the bars, looking for information. He quickly falls into a brutal relationship with a sexually confused young Latino. He also lusts after the son of a homophobic politician and has to fend off the unwanted advances of a long-legged woman journalist. Wilson burdens his cast with enough emotional baggage for a half-dozen afternoon talk shows, and he lets his sleuth in for a lot of rough sex. As a functioning mystery, the tale has plenty of characters but few fully developed suspects; the investigation closes predictably with a fact already well established. Wilson's vivid description of young gay life on the streets of West Hollywood is poorly served by his pedestrian plotting.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Wilson avoids doing what many mystery writers do, i.e., he doesn't make the story a treatise on some profession-- journalism, college professors, police departments, for example. Also, the narrative is fast-paced and you do not see the scaffolding underpinning the story line. Most importantly, the characters, particularly Justice, are fully developed as people. Justice actually becomes more self-aware and actually grows as a character, something I don't expect from a mystery character. Finally, Wilson makes a political statement but does it with finesse and subtlety.
There are nice touches. Wilson pays tribute to Walter Mosley by having Samantha Eliason's beefy bodyguard reading Mosley's mystery BLACK BETTY, for instance.
The novel is ultimately quite moving as Wilson takes on difficulty subjects: relationships, homophobia, single gay parents, dysfunctional families, love, forgiveness. SIMPLE JUSTICE is simply a very good mystery.
By the time of the events in Simple Justice, Benjamin Justice, at age thirty-eight, has already known incredible highs and lows in his life, both professionally and personally. A man haunted by his past, Justice also knows the pangs of loss-- his lover of ten years having died of AIDS. And there are deeper scars that weigh this man's soul-- scars reaching back to when he was a teen, living in a home with a physically abusive father and one terrible night in particular that would forever change the landscape of Justice's family and his life.
With the ironically named Benjamin Justice, Wilson has created a character that, because of his personal history, should know more about justice-- or the lack of it-- than most and a character that is motivated by the highest code of right and wrong. Therefore, when he is given a second chance by his former editor to work in journalism again, Justice is extremely reluctant to
open old wounds, but when he does, he does so with a keen sense that nothing is more critical than the truth and that he owes it to himself and those few who have stuck by him to always find that truth.
Narrated by Benjamin Justice, Simple Justice has elements of a modern noir detective novel to it with plenty of edge to the story without becoming a parody of classic hard-boiled detective fiction ala Chandler and Hammett. Justice finds himself dealing with a cast of unique characters,
all of whom have traits which cast suspicion upon them. Though the murder plot to be found in Simple Justice is well done, the turmoil in Benjamin Justice's own life is as real and captivating to the reader as who done it.
Although the way it is presented telegraphs the identity of the true murderer in advance, the final confrontation between Justice and Billy's killer is gripping and worthy of the best of Perry Mason. All in all, Simple Justice is an impressive, satisfying mystery with an exceptionally well-drawn and sympathetic protagonist, that belies the fact that it is a first novel.
Simple Justice deserved the awards and accolades it got. I am a mystery buff with a bad habit of sticking to �tried and true� writers. I went looking for fresh authors recently. Out of about twenty �new� talents, this is the one real gem I found.
Unlike the homophobe who posted in 1997, whether I personally like a character or his/her motivations is irrelevant to me. I want tight, convincing prose, an interesting mystery that doesn�t cheat, and a collection of unique characters that remain true to themselves and grow during the book. Wilson gave me all of that and more.
The writing is truly award-caliber. Each character is deliciously flawed and extremely well-realized. The mystery is a great first effort, and aside from the �Perry Mason� confession, I was intrigued throughout. Yes, any student of mysteries would pick the killer from the �line up� in the first half of the novel, but it�s still a good read. I recommend this book, with the single caveat that mystery novelists of the last ten years have become obsessed with the ... exploits of their characters, and Wilson is no exception. Since his characters are ..., expect ... (duh). Alternately, you can skip the ... scenes and jump straight (no pun intended) into a first-rate mystery novel.