Nava, Michael. “Lies With Man”, (Henry Rios Mystery Series, 8), ,Amble Press, 2021.
The Case of His Life
In volume eight of the Henry Rios Mystery Series,Latino criminal defense lawyer Henry Rios takes on the case of his life defending a young, queer activist who is charged with the murder. It all begins when Evangelical Christians and right-wing politicians team up to pass a ballot initiative to forcibly quarantine people with AIDS. When a fundamentalist church is firebombed and the pastor who publicly supported the initiative is killed, a member of a militant gay activist group QUEER (Queers United to End Erasure and Repression) is arrested for the bombing and charged with first-degree murder which brings the death penalty.
As Rios works on the case, secrets about the pastor come to light as well as about the accused, the activist organization and even the Los Angeles Police Department. Set in Los Angeles, 1986, the AiDS epidemic was devastating the gay population. When the initiative seems as if it is going to pass, Rios agrees
to be counsel for QUEER that claims to be committed to peaceful civil disobedience. However, one of its members is implicated in the bombing and Rios finds himself with a client suddenly facing the death penalty. You might think that since AIDS is no longer the threat that it was once, that there is little relevance here. We are still dealing with some of the same problems we did back then— homophobia and the rise of Evangelical Christianity. Let us not forget what these Evangelicals did in the Trump presidential administration.
If you have read any of the Rios books, you know that writer Michael Nava has drawn a character that is “on it”. He is authentic and very real. Nava is a brilliant detective writer who has us turning pages as quickly as possible. He keeps getting better and better making me wonder how he will ever top this. Of course, I cannot say much about the plot without ruining a wonderful read so you will just have to take my word for it. Nava also writes wonderful dialogue and is obviously in command of the law and legalese. This is not just a crime story but a story filled with what it was like to live during the AIDS epidemic, relationships and intimacies between people, politics and morality, fundamentalism and race. We see the power of the emotions especially those of love and hate. In our new freedoms in America today, we often forget the gay shame we once had to deal with and how it affected us so deeply.