The tragic thing about Joseph R.G. DeMarco’s debut novel, Murder on Camac, is that it is, of necessity (given the quirks of the publishing industry), being marketed and reviewed as a gay detective novel. The reason I say this is a tragedy is that it could and should easily find an audience among anyone who’s interested in taut storytelling in the vein of Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, Chris Knopf, and (at least thematically) Dan Brown. Yes, the protagonist, Marco Fontana, happens to be gay, but what of it? Nobody pigeonholed Shakespeare when he wrote about his gay–er, melancholy–Dane, but I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that any fan of detective fiction, regardless of sexual orientation, will find this novel engrossing.
The plot of the novel initially appears to revolve around the death of a writer, but as Fontana begins to investigate, he finds himself entwined in a much larger mystery involving the rumored assassination of Pope John Paul I. Throughout the proceedings, DeMarco peppers the narrative with wry wit and pitch-perfect dialogue. And, as a native Philadelphian, I was particularly impressed with the way in which the City of Brotherly Love, the setting for this novel, comes to life. The novel is a page-turner in the classic sense — a mystery that demands the reader’s attention with increasing urgency at every turn. Of course, this should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the mystery scene; DeMarco is the longtime editor of the online detective journal Mysterical E, and it shows. He is an author steeped in the traditions of the genre, and the comfort with which he inhabits the world of Marco (hmm… coincidence?) Fontana makes Murder on Camac a pleasure to read.
I’d be repeating myself if I said that Murder on Camac is a taut, well-paced thriller, but that’s what it is, so what the heck, here it is a third time: Murder on Camac is a taut, well-paced thriller, and I look forward to seeing what DeMarco does next.