The best books on gay mysteries

Gregory Ashe Author Of The Same Breath
By Gregory Ashe

The Books I Picked & Why

Lay Your Sleeping Head: A Henry Rios Novel

By Michael Nava

Lay Your Sleeping Head: A Henry Rios Novel

Why this book?

The first book in Nava’s best-known series, Lay Your Sleeping Head introduces defense attorney Henry Rios. Rios is struggling with addiction and an existential crisis; when he is drawn into investigating the murder of a young man he loved, he finds he is the only one willing to dig for the truth. Nava’s books are lyrical, intricate, and intensely thoughtful about what it means to be a gay man.


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Fadeout

By Joseph Hansen

Fadeout

Why this book?

Fadeout is the first book in Hansen’s Dave Brandstetter mysteries. The protagonist, an openly gay insurance investigator in 1970s California, is convinced that a man who has been reported dead is actually still alive, and he must hurry to find him. Another classic in the gay mystery canon, Fadeout is vividly noir, grittily honest, and rejects cliches and stereotypes in a way that is still shocking over fifty years later.


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Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries

By Marshall Thornton

Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries

Why this book?

Thornton, one of the most frequent winners of the Lambda Literary Award, kicks off his Nick Nowak series with a collection of novella-length stories. Nick is a former police officer turned private investigator. Set in the 80s, the series follows Nick through the AIDS crisis against the backdrop of heart-pounding (and heartbreaking) mysteries. 


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Simple Justice

By John Morgan Wilson

Simple Justice

Why this book?

Benjamin Justice is a broken man—a former prize-winning journalist whose career (and life) has been shattered by the death of his lover and a scandal surrounding his best-known writing. Recruited by his former boss to assist an up-and-coming journalist, Ben finds himself investigating a murder that occurred outside a gay bar. The series is tightly written and casts a dark glamor across gay life in ’90s California.


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The Cold Cold Ground

By Adrian McKinty

The Cold Cold Ground

Why this book?

Set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, The Cold Cold Ground is my most adventurous pick for this list because its protagonist, Sean Duffy, isn’t exactly gay. Or perhaps he just isn’t out. It’s impossible to tell—most likely because Sean himself doesn’t know. The series plays with Sean’s attraction to men, including his work as a police detective investigating the deaths of murdered gay men, while Sean pursues relationships with women. McKinty manages to turn the violence and despair of that time into gorgeous, gripping prose and powerful stories.


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