Boystown: SVU edition
This one hits hard. Not so much because of the crimes being investigated, but because the Boystown series takes the reader back to 1980‘s gay Chicago – and that means, back to the advent of the AIDS crisis. A time of confusion and fear and so, so many people lost. I know that some people of my generation and younger think it‘s time to let the AIDS-stories rest, to give us queer stories with happier outcomes. I can only partly agree with that. Yes, we deserve happy stories with happy endings. But for many, the pain of the 1980‘s and 1990‘s is still fresh. And their stories deserve to be told, too.
Anyway, to the book: Grumpy PI Nick Nowak is even a bit more grumpy than usual; the last installment ended with him being shot and he‘s still recovering from a busted shoulder blade. Which also impairs his sex life. But he can‘t grumble like he‘d like to, because he still has to care about his best friend Ross, who‘s slowly dying of AIDS, and about Mrs. Harker, his late lover‘s mother, who‘s slowly dying of cancer. Although he should be resting, Nick takes a case helping a bipolar woman who‘s convinced she had witnessed a murder. No evidence of said murder can be found and Nick his hired by the woman‘s sister to either prove or disprove her claim. At the same time, Nick has to deal with a law suit concerning his ward Terry, a teenager who‘s supposed to testify against his abusive former deacon. The church wants to cover the abuse, and Nick wants to prevent that.
The murder mystery is pretty much only background to show how events in Nick‘s life enfold. And look at Nick: He‘s all grown-up now! Past grief, present fear and anger, but also his commitment to his relationship with Joseph, have changed him a lot. But at the core he stays the gruff guy with a big heart, a rock for his circle of friends and found family, someone people can rely on, although he probably doesn‘t see himself that way.
In my review for the last installment, I have complained about too little Joseph and Ross. Both get considerable more on-page time here, and it‘s for the better. Joseph‘s allowed to show his sweet, helpful character again, and his psychological knowledge and good-people-skills come in handy in Nick‘s latest employment. Spending more time with Ross is bittersweet: it‘s painful to watch him slowly fade away. On the other hand his interactions with Nick are just so lovely to read. Those two just click naturally.
Although the subject matter is rather grim, Thornton has given Nick enough sense of irony and sarcasm to put a smile onto the readers face every once in a while. This won‘t be the last we see of Nick Nowak. There are some tearful Goodbyes to come, but I hope there will also be some happiness in Nick‘s life.