Book Cover James Lear’s The Back Passage is the gay adult version of the movie Gosford Park, or at least that’s what kept coming to my mind as I read it. I wish Ryan Phillippe, Jeremy Northam, and James Wilby would star in a film adaptation of this novel!

The Back Passage follows Edward “Mitch” Mitchell, a 1924 Cambridge postgraduate student who agrees to visit Drekeham Hall, a Norfolk country estate, with his best friend, Harry “Boy” Morgan, who is engaged to the daughter of Sir James Eagle, the patriarch of the Drekeham household. Mitch’s motivation in accompanying Boy is far from innocent, however, since he’s been lusting after his friend since he first saw Boy carrying an upturned rowboat out of a river. Since proper young women don’t put out before marriage — and Mitch certainly does — it’s not long before Mitch find himself in a cupboard giving Boy his first blow job.

Before can finish the liaison, however, Boy’s fiancĂ©e screams, revealing that a dead body has just fallen out of a cupboard similar to the one Mitch and Boy are currently using. Having read a lot of detective fiction in his youth, Mitch intuits that something fishing is going on when one of the servants with no apparent connection to the dead man is quickly precipitously arrested for the murder. He therefore decides that it’s up to him to find the real murderer and bring him to justice.

But he murder plot is really just an excuse to follow Mitch’s erotic adventures, as he seduces just about every man connected with or investigating the murder, including Sir James’s younger, effeminate, and obviously gay brother, a local constable, a reporter, a couple of the servants, Sir James’s secretary, and, of course, Boy. His investigation even gives him the opportunity to observe a couple of the servants indulge their own same-sex desires and threatens his own life when he becomes the object of a corrupt policeman’s potentially homicidal S/M fantasies. The Back Passage is a fun, entertaining take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.

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