Like Philip Marlowe in the ’70s, but gay.
What is the Dave Brandstetter series about?
Written by the American crime author and poet Joseph Hansen, this successful mystery series started in 1970, introducing one of the genre’s first openly homosexual investigators, Dave Brandstetter.
Like Philip Marlowe or Mike Hammer, Dave Brandstetter is a hard-boiled protagonist, a middle-age PI who was good at his job. Using what he learned when he was tracking nazis at the end of the war, he became an expert in his field.
During almost twenty years, he did the best he could, getting old in a country for young men.
How to read the Dave Brandstetter Books in Order?
Every book in the Dave Brandstetter series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- Fadeout – Dave Brandstetter is sent to investigate the death of radio personality Fox Olsen. His car is found crashed in a dry river bed. But there is no body – and as Dave looks deeper into his life, it seems as though he had good reasons to disappear.
- Death Claims – John Oats is dead; drowned in the treacherous waves of the Pacific. But was it accident, suicide, or murder? Between the mysteriously absent son, the bitter ex-wife and the current lover, there are plenty of people with reason to lie to Dave Brandstetter about what really happened that night – and why.
- Troublemaker – Rick Wendell never made an enemy in his life, but he died all the same; and Larry Johns was found standing over him with the gun in his hand still smoking. Only Dave Brandstetter can’t see it as an open-and-shut case – what was Johns’ motive? What happened to the cash Wendell withdrew that day? As his investigation progresses, he comes to realise the danger of assumptions, particularly where love and money are involved.
- The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of – Police Chief Ben Orton swore he’d keep ‘big city vice’ out of his town. So no one is too surprised when he turns up dead – but Dave Brandstetter thinks pinning his murder on gay activist Cliff Kerlee is just a bit too convenient. His investigation uncovers a community cowed by one man and a police force with its own ideas of law and order.
- Skinflick – Gerald Dawson was an angry man, a fundamentalist who wanted to rid the world of everything he feared and hated. So when he is found murdered, there are plenty of suspects: most obviously the owner of the pornshop he had repeatedly attacked. But Dave Brandstetter knows something doesn’t add up, and as he travels from church to X-rated film set, from teenage prostitutes to upstanding preachers, he finds the trail leading somewhere altogether unexpected.
- Gravedigger – A father claims on his daughter’s life insurance – the girl is feared to be a victim of cultist and killer Azrael. But before the claim can be investigated, the man has disappeared – and Dave Brandstetter has to follow the clues through the canyons of LA to a truly terrifying climax.
- Nightwork – When Paul Myers’ truck goes off the road in flames, Dave is called in to investigate. It’s no accident – someone stuck a bomb beneath the vehicle. But it seems like no one knows what Paul was hauling, or who he was working for, and the case will pit Dave Brandstetter against companies willing to kill to keep their dirty secrets.
- The Little Dog Laughed – When foreign correspondent Adam Streeter is found shot dead, the police and his daughter both say suicide; but his life insurance company sends Dave Brandstetter in to check all the same. He soon realises that Adam was on the trail of a big story – so big that, as Dave digs deeper, he swiftly finds himself targeted by the same powerful and pitiless enemy.
- Early Graves – Dave Brandstetter returns home one morning to find an unknown dead man in his front yard, the latest victim of a serial killer targeting young men with AIDS. Why was he brought to Dave’s door? The hunt for the answer leads him from the country set to the downtown hustlers, along the dark byways of sex, suffering, grief and vengeance.
- Obedience – A rundown harbour is due to be re-developed – against the wishes of those who call it home. When Mr Le, the businessman behind the project, is shot on his way to meet the residents’ spokesman, the culprit seems obvious. But then Dave Brandstetter is persuaded to take the case, and finds much more beneath the surface: forbidden love, deadly hatred, and most toxic of all, family honour.
- The Boy Who Was Buried this Morning – The ‘Combat Zone’ is for men playing at war, with paint rather than bullets. But when a millionaire’s son is shot with a real gun, Dave Brandstetter is called in to find out if it’s more than an accident. The case takes him to a town with its own neo-Nazi militia – not the safest place for a gay PI; but then Dave has never figured his own safety much when he’s on the tracks of a killer.
- A Country of Old Men – After twenty-one years as an investigator, Dave Brandstetter is finally planning to retire. But first he is drawn into one final case: a tale of kidnapping and murder told by an abandoned boy. With the police unconvinced by the child’s testimony, Dave must unravel a sordid story of drugs, jealousy and fraud before he can rest at last.
The Complete Brandstetter
This is not a new mystery series, by far. So, it’s not surprising that you can also find all of the 12 books in one place. In this 1200 pages book, you’ll find everything you need to spend some time with Dave Brandstetter.
If you like Dave Brandstetter, you may also want to read the Henry Rios Mystery series, or consult our guide to Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.