Review: The Back Passage by James Lear

Agatha Christie, move over! Hard-core sex and scandal meet in this brilliantly funny whodunit. A seaside village, an English country house, a family of wealthy eccentrics and their equally peculiar servants, a determined detective — all the ingredients are here for a cozy Agatha Christie-style whodunit. But wait — Edward “Mitch” Mitchell is no Hercule Poirot, and The Back Passage is no Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Mitch is a handsome, insatiable 22-year-old hunk who never lets a clue stand in the way of a steamy encounter, whether it’s with the local constabulary, the house secretary, or his school chum and fellow athlete Boy Morgan, who becomes his Watson when they’re not busy boffing each other.

Review by Erastes

Thoroughly enjoyable. This book very clearly makes the point that gay historical fiction needn’t be po faced, full of deep meaningful literary merit and serious as hell. This is a romp, from start (hero found groping his friend in an understairs cupboard) to the finish which I won’t spoil. Imagine how I squeed when I read the first page and found that it was set about 10 miles from where I sit right now, on the North Norfolk coast in 1925.

There’s a lot of sex in this book, and I mean a LOT. This is the kind of book where the reader can be happy that there’s sex in every chapter and it isn’t boringly escalated, you know what a mean, starts with a grope, moves on to a blow job, then a 69 and so on – the Hero “Mitch” takes advantage of every opportunity.

And there’s PLENTY of opportunity. Even though you must suspend your belief at the door, although, to be honest, a remote Norfolk aristocratic family – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this house set-up hadn’t actually happened, so it’s actually quite plausible and the reasons for why everyone seems to be gay are very cleverly explained. It’s not just the power of Mitch’s sex-appeal that gives him the sex-filled week of his life!

It’s a classic who-dunnit, too. Big house in the middle of no-where with a cast of larger than life characters, unexplained murder and it could be any one of the occupants, like all of Christie’s stories I was hopelessly led down one blind alley after another, suspecting everyone in turn and happy doing so.

What I particularly liked was the lovely little touches of the language. When Mitch talks he says ass, and when Boy Morgan speaks he says arse. I heartily approve of this.

I also liked the fact that Mitch isn’t some Gary-Stu private dick (although his that part of his anatomy is anything but private…) solving everything. He’s just nicely curious, and is not averse to asking questions and using other methods to get what he wants. He doesn’t get it right all the time too, in fact I loved the fact that when he’s listening to one of the witnesses he frankly says “I couldn’t help but think that Sherlock would have already grasped the salient point” (paraphrased)

The sex itself is graphic, along the same graphic level as say – Alyson’s short story collections.

So all in all, recommended. I dislike asking an author for a sequel, but, in Mitch, he has a character who could cheerfully go on to other gay mysteries. I shall go and seek Lear’s other works now, and will look forward to his next. A nice afternoon’s read, which got me hot and made me smile too.

And really – any writer who uses whence and glabrous is always going to win my heart…

Author’s Website

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6 Responses

  1. Just finished (and loved) this! Bought it months ago but finally read it on the strength of your review. Very best line in the book: “…nothing like deductive reasoning to take the blood out of a stiff prick.” So sly and perfect!!

    Was wondering what you made of lines like: “I…was desperate to let him play the man with me.” Reflection of the times in which the book’s set, or kowtowing to receptive-partner-as-passive-and-feminine trope?

  2. It’s a good, unpretentious romp, and as they say in an advert here, it “does exactly what it says on the tin.” I went on to read “Hot Valley” on the strength of this but have to admit myself disappointed because it was more of the same, but set in the American Civil War – boy travels around and literally has sex with everyone he meets. In the closed house scenario it worked perfectly – and for a porn book it was fine, but I was hoping for more of an historical homoerotic novel with emphasis on the history rather than an escalating orgy of every man in America being homosexual.

    As to the quote… I don’t know. James IS a gay man so perhaps male writers are allowed to get away with that sort of quote more than women, but it seems right – particularly for the time period – a man who was penetrating would be more considered to be playing “the man”? I don’t know. … It’s certainly a point that we could discuss on the blog at some point?

  3. [...] in Mitch, he has a character who could cheerfully go on to other gay mysteries…. source: Review: The Back Passage by James Lear, Speakitsname’s [...]

  4. [...] that I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Another blog that reviews gay historical fiction, Speak Its Name, suggests that Lear consider a sequel. I definitely agree with this suggestion — I would love [...]

  5. [...] was utterly enamoured and in love with Mr Lear’s last novel “The Back Passage” that I was over excited that another book was coming out. I [...]

  6. [...] I highly suspect “a chance meeting” is not exactly what happened. More likely some hot “one not stand” wild monkey type “gay loving” on a train. This is not that far away from James Lear ~ The Back Passage. [...]

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