Asymmetric Worlds (2023)
Reviewed by Leigh Kimberly Zoby for Reader Views (01/2023)
“Murder Garden” by Ron Fritsch is a captivating murder mystery set in the suburbs of Chicago shortly after the decriminalization of homosexuality in the 1960s. Successful banker Ted Linden returns home one evening to find his teenage lover Warren Hadley dead in the backyard with his throat slit. The night before the murder, Darrel Hadley, Warren’s hot-headed brother, openly threatens Warren, demanding he return to the family farm. Homophobic and prejudiced attitudes within the Chicago Police Department complicate the investigation. Lead Detective Tim Conway must look past the roadblocks of preconceived ideas to the clues in order to discover the guilty party.
Homosexuality in the 1960s was difficult and often challenged dominant belief systems and societal norms. Author Ron Fritsch does an excellent job of creating a realistic setting of this period. An example of the common mindset is evident when Darrel implies he would rather his brother be dead than persist in loving someone of the same sex. Ted Linden is forced to decide whether to live in truth or a lie. As the investigation moves forward, Linden’s personal and professional life comes under fire. The hardships Ted navigates while dealing with the loss of his soul mate are almost unbearable. A plight for justice becomes a national media hot topic and Linden’s life is turned upside down as he defends himself and his lifestyle.
“Murder Garden” is a dramatic, thought-provoking novel. The writing style is clear, and the scene setting is believable. The author portrays authentic details about the ups and downs of coming out during the 1960s. The novel accurately depicts the stressors faced by the gay community. As a murder mystery, the story starts strong, setting the stage for a page-turner, but unfortunately becomes a bit slow, repetitive, and predictable. The focus of the story seems to shift from the death of Warren to the difficulties Ted faces. I had a difficult time understanding the mindset of Mrs. Hadley and thought the phone conversations were odd. For being on the suspect list, Ted was privy to too much information during the investigation. The courtroom scenes were exciting, but I expected more emotion from Ted as he lost both his lover and best friend. Personally, I would be devastated at the loss of my spouse and would lawyer up before the body got cold.
Ron Fritsch’s “Murder garden” is so much more than the everyday whodunit, it is also a noteworthy historical fiction. I believe the strength of Ron Fritsch’s creation lies in accurately depicting the struggles gays faced on the threshold of acceptance and equality. This novel is a well-researched eye-opener that expertly reflects the prejudices and struggles faced by the LGBTQ community.