Review: “The Killer Wore Leather,” Laura Antoniou

Pros: So much better than the last mystery I read that tackled a sex-related subculture
Cons: Too many characters to keep track of.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

 

First, per FCC guidelines I should note that this book was loaned to me for free, by someone who knows the author.

 

Forgive me for a moment, but I must take a few words to compare Laura Antoniou’s The Killer Wore Leather: A Mystery with Paul Heald’s A Death in Eden (which I read very recently). Both books involve a death in a subculture that most people shy away from (yet find fascinating). In Heald’s book that was the adult film industry; in Antoniou’s book it’s the fetish/leather subculture. But where Heald took what should have been a fascinating milieu and instead turned it into a series of dull, didactic monologues, Antoniou dove straight in, allowing her characters to not just explain and argue, but also show through their actions. The Killer Wore Leather is subculture exploration done right, with a great confusing mystery to boot.

Back to the premise: Rebecca is a lesbian and a detective. She still gets some ragging on from other cops, but they’ve mostly backed off at this point. She has a new partner for this case, Dominick. When they’re called to a leather-and-fetish convention to check out a murder, they experience quite the case of culture shock at first. There are so many fetishes on display. There’s a contest for the leather-wearers. There are dominants and submissives everywhere. There are folks who get off on polishing other people’s shoes. There’s even a small sub-culture of ‘Zodians’ who take their cue from an old bunch of novels, and who are very strict about the male being dominant and the female being a submissive slave. (I’d guess that Antoniou was doing a send-up of the Gor novels here.)

There are so many potential killers, and I did get somewhat confused trying to keep track of which characters were which. While I wasn’t ultimately all that surprised by the identity of the killer, that didn’t detract from the book at all: right until the last minute the author kept throwing revelations, implications, and red herrings in my way, so I could never be sure that my guess was right.

The real fun was all the wonderful melodrama between characters. While some of the characters felt like stereotypes at first, and the as-yet-alive murder victim seemed obvious, everyone got a shot at some additional complexity throughout the book, even that seemingly one-note murder victim. Any kind of insular group like this is likely to experience plenty of drama, and that drama made for a terribly fun read. I was also amazed that one character managed to pull off what, in any other book, would have been an info-dump. Instead, since the person was exploring their views on a particular topic and thus seeing it through a biased lens, it made the monologue fascinating and revealing.

If I go on much further I’ll risk giving plot points away, so I’ll stop here. Not only did I really enjoy The Killer Wore Leather, but I’d be happy to read more by Laura Antoniou.

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