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She Came by the Book
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San Francisco legal investigator Emma Victor stumbles into trouble at the inaugural gala for the Lesbian and Gay Archive. The glitterati are all on hand for the ceremonies, which come to an abrupt halt when the archive's executive director, Tracy Port, digs into her cyanide-laced potatoes. The poison seems to have been carried in the amulet worn by prominent mystery writer Helen Thomas, who certainly had a motive: Tracy was making moves on Helen's partner. Retained by Helen's lawyer, Emma tracks down Gurl Jesus, the young photographer who recorded the gala, in the hope that the photos will show the poison being added to dinner. Gurl Jesus sets a merry chase that includes a stop in a piercing parlor, but by the time Emma finds her, Gurl Jesus is dead and the Polaroids are missing. Only after a third murder does Emma realize the killer's identity, in a denouement that will surprise even a reader accustomed to the gender-bending ways of the lesbian and gay community. Lambda Literary Award winner Wings (Divine Victim) is too generous with false leads, and some of her characters are clichéd (a notable exception is a Gertrude Stein scholar who offers a very clear reading of at least one piece of Stein's difficult prose). And while the plot evinces some gaps, this remains a compelling story, featuring a tremendously likable sleuth in a sharply etched milieu. (Mar.)

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