In 1952 San Francisco, homosexuality is illegal and largely frowned upon by society. But the gates of the titular Lavender House keep an extended LGBTQ+ family safely tucked away from the persecution and discrimination of the outside world, able to live their lives without judgment or reprisal. This shelter and sense of belonging comes thanks to their benefactor and matriarch, soap entrepreneur Irene Lamontaine.
If only they were able to keep their own petty jealousies and rampant ambitions in check. But this is not the case in Lev AC Rosen’s twisty new mystery. Irene soon turns up dead, and one of Lavender House’s denizens may be responsible for her demise.
Enter Evander “Andy” Mills, an ex-police detective who was fired after being caught in a raid at a gay bar. Irene’s widow (in all but name), Pearl, hires him to find the killer in their midst. The mystery is told through Andy’s point of view, and readers will share his fascination with the unique life afforded the inhabitants of Lavender House and deeply empathize with his position as an outsider struggling to find his own place in the world.
Rosen quickly turns the Agatha Christie-esque elements of the mystery on their head with a dynamic cast of characters and an inimitable take on hard-boiled noir that revels in the foggy atmosphere of San Francisco while also highlighting the characters’ angst and inner turmoil. Readers familiar with Rosen’s young adult novel Camp, which follows LGBTQ+ teens at a utopia-like conclave, will enjoy this deeper, darker examination of what it means to be a queer person in a homophobic world.
In Lavender House, Rosen not only thoroughly entertains mystery lovers but also ups the ante by presenting a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be free to love who you love.