It is unfortunate that Jade In Aries has not aged well at all. The fourth of five Mitch Tobin mystery novels by Tucker Coe aka Donald E. Westlake takes place in New York City’s gay community. Though Donald E. Westlake does a great job depicting some aspects of that community, the language used to depict its members though common then is prejudiced and very offensive now. Some of the character descriptions are also dated and offensive stereotypes. These are hard pills to swallow.
If a reader can set these issues aside, Jade in Aries is the best of the Mitch Tobin mystery novels. Tobin is taking a break from building his garden wall, a metaphor if there ever was one, to build an extension to his basement. In other words he is digging deeper and that is a metaphor for what happens to him personally as he will find some kind of solace at the end of this mystery.
Mitch Tobin is hired by designer and boutique owner Ronald Cornell to find out who killed his business and life partner. The detective in charge, Manzoni, is prejudiced and things a slur word just killed another slur word case closed. When Cornell falls off his building’s roof, Manzoni immediately things insanity and suicide attempt instead of attempted murder on a second member of a tight knit gay community.
The title Jade in Aries comes from the fact Ronald Cornell has a list of suspects for the murder of his partner and is convinced their horoscopes will unveil the killer. Mitch Tobin’s job is at first only to get the right information as to date, place, and hour of birth so Cornell can draw the charts. Things get complicated and Tobin finds himself drawn deeper in the investigation, especially after Manzoni tries to intimidate him.
As mentionned before, Jade in Aries is an excellent mystery novel by Donald E. Westlake aka Tucker Coe. It is really unfortunate that the prejudicial and offensive language and descriptions used to depict some of the characters really make the reader uncomfortable to the point of taking a lot away from what is otherwise a find entry in the Mitch Tobin series. The solve is also a bit on the weak side.
Jade In Aries
A Mitch Tobin Mystery
Donald E Westlake
Originally published 1970
Mysterious Press 2013
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