Lear, James, “The Back Passage”. Cleis Press, 2006
An Erotic Mystery
What a clever book! “The Back Passage” by James Lear is a surprise of a novel and a welcome one at that. It is entertaining fro the first page to the last and is one of those that you can’t stop reading once you begin. Believable and full of surprise it is simply an erotic pleasure read. Fast and frantic, it explores relations between servants and masters at Drekeham Hall in Britain. (I am sure the author knows why he named the estate “Dreck”eham and the name suits the novel so well.
The year is 1925 and we are on the verge of a general strike or shall I say the General Strike that ended of the globalism of the British Empire and made labor sold for a few weeks. Edward Mitchell is a student at Cambridge and becomes infatuated with Harry “Boy” Morgan, his roommate. “Boy” Morgan is engaged to Lady Belinda is a product of the upper class and has been bred to take his place there. Mitch (as Edward Mitchell prefers to be called) goes to a weekend party wit Morgan and comes across a dead body in the estate.
It seems that there was a god of dilly-dallying when the upper classes exploited the working class men of England (and I mean sexually exploited) and the police also engaged in this. A sergeant has taken money from Sir James Eagle to keep the common people at bay and “innocent” should any charges be made by them. Mitch, being from Boston, cannot even think of such activity happening in America and is surprised to the utmost.
There is also the subplot of Whopper Hunt, a good-looking woman who is engaged to Rex, the son of Sir James. Rex bolted the estate when Boy and Mitch discover a corpse—that of a Reginald Walworth. Since he fled, we suspect that Rex had something to do with the hasty departure from life of Reg but slowly our suspicions begin to include other members of the Eagle family. In fact the list of suspect is almost like one of my shopping lists. Reading “The Back Passage” is almost like reading one of those great old Agatha Christie mysteries but it is only fair to say that Dame Christie is a great deal more intense than and not nearly as erotic as Mr. Lear.
The amount of sexual “dalliance” is incredible. It seems that the men drop their pants every other page and the erotic descriptions are very arousing. The guys have sex everywhere one can think of and whenever the mood hits them (and sometimes when it doesn’t).
Lear comes across as an engaging author who admirably has done his research and given us a wonderful book. My head swims from the amount of sex included in this book and the descriptions of it are excellent and steamy. What is really fascinating is that the readers love Mitch even with the amount of sex he has and with what a roué he is.
“The Back Passage” is everything it claims to be—an erotic, highly sexual whodunit. I had a great time with it and even with the surprises it is completely believable. It is both a comedy of manners and an excellent murder mystery with all the plot twists that you would expect. Throw in a double portion of sex and you are in for a great and entertaining read.
What about the ending? Let me say that I am not saying but you are in for a surprise. You can guess and double guess but it will still make you wonder why you did not guess correctly.