PI Evander “Andy” Mills’ first adventure, Lavender House, was an intriguing mix of gothic and noir elements. In his second Andy Mills mystery, The Bell in the Fog, author Lev AC Rosen outdoes himself, while also firmly establishing the series in the tradition of noir detective novels. Set in 1952 San Francisco, The Bell in the Fog is not only a solid mystery but also a glimpse into the trauma and camaraderie that marked the LGBTQ+ experience of that era.
After being outed and losing his job with the police force in Lavender House, Andy is now offering his services as a detective to San Francisco’s queer community, who cannot seek justice or assistance through traditional means as their very lives are criminalized. Andy’s struggling to make ends meet when he finally lands a case substantial enough to cement his reputation as a trustworthy PI.
His former lover James, a closeted naval officer, is being blackmailed with photos of himself with another man. James is expecting a promotion to admiral, and needs Andy to track down the blackmailer and the photos in order to keep his life from imploding. For Andy, the case is bittersweet—James more or less ghosted him, giving him no explanation for the end of their relationship. His investigation uncovers a scheme targeting many of San Francisco’s queer residents, and when he finds one of the blackmailers dead, Andy is suddenly embroiled in a mystery worth killing over.
The Bell in the Fog brings readers to the underground LGBTQ+ scene of the 1950s and explores the habitual traumas, like police brutality, and ever-present fear of exposure that queer people endured. Rosen balances this by also showing how found families were created and how the community supported each other: Andy is assisted by Lee, a performer who would be understood as gender fluid today and whose network of friends brings Andy vital information, and he’s also given medical care by Gene, a bartender who would have been a doctor had he not been outed himself. The result is an atmospheric historical novel as well as a gritty noir mystery that will thrill both readers who already love Andy Mills and those meeting him for the first time.