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    Review of MURDER BY DESIGN by Jon P. Bloch


    St. Martin's Minotaur, March 2004

    Gay gossip columnist Rick Domino feels the need for a new design for his living room--but his budget is a bit short. When his boss comes up with the idea of Rick's living room being a venue for the popular do-it-yourself cable show, My House, Your House, Rick agrees--assuming he can specify the designers, his partner, and the other home to be designed. Instead, he gets a bit of a nightmare--a designer whose central idea is crochet. But at least 'Aunt Fern' doesn't believe in pulling up the hardwoods or turning a home into a prison and that's what the other designer, beautiful Helena Godiva has in mind for Rick's friend, recently out-of-the-closet police detective Terry Zane.

    When Helena Godiva is found murdered and Terry's cousin, Ann-Margaret, is the chief suspect. Rick and Terry decide they need to clear Ann-Margaret's name and, with luck, get Rick some great insider gossip and Terry a conviction credit with the LAPD. Pretty clearly, the killer has something to do with the show. Even more clearly, the two men discover as they investigate, just about everyone has good reason to have killed Helena. She had slept with the women's fiances, threatened to out the gay men, exposed embarassing secrets, and generally been a hateful witch. Even Ann-Margaret has a motive despite Rick and Terry's moral certainty that she is innocent. But with such a wealth of suspects, how can they track down the actual killer?

    Author Jon P. Bloch (see more reviews of novels by Bloch) develops charming characters in the cynical Rick and the straight-arrow Terry. Rick (first person protagonist) can be critical of everyone (except himself), which can be offputting until you realize that this simply reflects his personality. Terry proves an effective foil, reminding Rick that there is more to life than empty perfection--and why not have a television in the living room anyway. Bloch's examination of the gay lifestyle in Los Angeles rings true--although the complete lack of worthwhile straight guys is a bit disconcerting.

    MURDER BY DESIGN pokes fun at the nations fascination with design makeover shows and provides a charming mystery as well. Nicely done.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 6/08/04

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