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Publisher's Summary

In the first book of the acclaimed Henry Rios series, a lawyer doggedly pursues a murder investigation into the lions' den of San Francisco's moneyed elite
A burnt-out public defender battling alcoholism, Henry Rios has reached a crossroads in his life. While interviewing his former lover Hugh Paris in jail, Rios goes through the motions, but notices that Paris is far more polished and well off than the usual suspects arrested for drug possession. Paris is mysteriously bailed out - but a few weeks later, he turns up on Rios's doorstep. Skittish and paranoid, he admits to using heroin and says he's afraid that his wealthy grandfather wants to murder him.
Rios tries to help Paris get clean, but when Paris is found dead of an apparent heroin overdose, Rios is the only one who considers foul play. Determined to find Paris' killer, Rios knocks on San Francisco's most gilded doors, where he discovers a family tainted by jealousy, greed, and hate. They've been warped by a fortune someone's willing to kill - and kill again - to possess.
At once an atmospheric noir mystery and a scathing indictment of a legal system caught in the maws of escalating corruption, The Little Death chronicles one man's struggle to achieve true justice for all.
The Little Death is the first book in the Henry Rios mystery series, which also includes Goldenboy and Howtown.
©1986 Michael Nava (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

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By Jessica on 12-24-13

Excellent, elegantly written, darkish mystery

I've wanted to read Nava's Henry Rios mysteries for a long time and was thrilled to see them (at least the first four of them) in audio format - and am hoping the last three are forthcoming. I'm a little shocked that this is the first review. The Little Death is the first of the series, in which Rios starts out as a burned-out public defender in, essentially, Palo Alto. It takes place in roughly the early 1980s (and was written in about 1985), but though in some ways it is clearly the product of its time, in other ways it transcends its setting and doesn't feel at all dated.

The story begins with him interviewing inmate Hugh Paris in jail. (Hugh, contrary to what the blurb says, is not his former lover; this is their first meeting.) Hugh declines his PD services but shows up on his doorstep a few weeks later, presumably having sensed a connection between them, but also convinced someone is out to kill him. Rios doesn't believe him, but when Hugh is later found dead of an apparent heroin overdose, Rios is the only one interested in seeking justice or finding the killer, and his search leads him into the twisty hidden world of San Francisco's Old Money families.

The mystery is convoluted but subtle and intelligent, without the pat and predictable twists often found in today's mystery-thrillers. No blood and gore, no graphic sex, but I didn't miss them. The plot moves along at a good pace and kept me thoroughly engaged even as it was expertly interspersed with Henry Rios's own introspection as he contemplates turbulent changes in both his professional and personal life, and his emotional journey, or start thereof, as this is just the beginning of a 7-book series. (His personal issues, and in particular the fact that he is gay, are certainly important, but they are not defining, either of the plot or of Rios himself.) It might be possible to feel somewhat detached or disengaged by the very precise and cool tone of the writing, but I found the tone actually emphasizes the emotions Rios feels in a way a more impassioned tone might not have.

And this book left me wanting to know a lot more about him.

One of the things that distinguishes this mystery (besides the relatively rare gay protagonist) is the exquisite writing. The prose is spare but elegant, and the smooth, cultured voice of the narrator, Gregory St. John (with whom I was not familiar), though perhaps arguable how well it is suited to the nature and ethnicity of the protagonist, is absolutely perfect for the tone and tenor of the writing. Listening to him turned out to be an ideal way to appreciate the author's remarkable craftsmanship: his understated but genius turns of phrase (so many phrases I wanted to write down to remember later!), his control of the plot, the flow and seeming effortlessness of the writing.

Highly recommended. I'm ready for the next one.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful


By Mei Gaffey on 11-17-17

Better Than I Expected

I picked up this book for a book club reading. I wasn't sure what to expect, being told the book was chosen because the main character was a gay Latino that solves crimes. I was concerned the story would be gimmicky-appealing to only a niche group-but was pleasantly surprised. Though a bit dated [I had to explain to someone how an answering machine worked] the story was compelling, and well narrated-with the plot line taking center stage. I will be continuing the series.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Becky Black on 11-24-14

A perfect marriage of story and narrator

Any additional comments?

This is a new series to me, not having read these books, and I found this first one absolutely excellent. The story is good, a well written mystery, with a lead character I liked and lots of interesting supporting ones, some of whom I hope show up again. The narrator Gregory St. John is absolutely excellent. His voice is beautifully clear and melodious. He gets great intensity into the emotional moments. I will definitely be continuing the series.

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