Rating: 3.75 stars
Three years ago Private Investigator Nick Cutter found the man of his dreams at a bar called The Time Gone By in San Francisco. They danced and talked for hours, making plans to leave the bar together. Nick made a quick stop in the men’s room and when he returned, the man had disappeared and Nick didn’t even have his name. Nick searched but never found him again.
Now a missing persons case has landed Nick in Montana, looking for a Peter Kimura who disappeared from San Francisco three months ago. Peter has reappeared in Weller Falls, Montana under the name Tori Tanaka. Nick is astounded when he finds that Tori, aka Peter, is the man he met all those years ago at the bar. A simple case turns into one of deadly complications when Tori tells Nick the reason he ran — he had seen a murder. Reunited with the man he loves, Nick will do anything, even confront a murderer, to keep Tori safe and finish what they started at The Time Gone By.
I thought this was just a lovely story by an author with whom I was unfamiliar. The author did such a great job with this story, starting with the town of Weller Falls in Montana. Suzukawa has definitely captured the essence of a small town in the middle of an identity crisis. Neglected storefronts vie with new upscale businesses as celebrities flock to this blue collar burg with the spectacular falls. Old timers look with distain at all visitors walking their streets and a layer of distrust for newcomers covers all who live there. Suzukawa uses her gay, modern California men to highlight the distinctions between them and the townspeople in a way that both moves the story along and gives the couple an “us versus them” scenario in which to play out the murderer/witness storyline.
I love a private investigator in books. Tired and wary from seeing people at their worst, they make a great narrator for stories and Nick is no different. Nick’s private investigator is a practical man whose one moment of romance gone wrong haunts him to the day. He tells us how easy it is to trace someone in this age of electronics and social networks using the readily available information. It’s important that Nick gives a glimpse into his heart and memories in order to see why that encounter in the bar became so crucial to him and the story. Peter Kimura/Tori Tanaka is lesser known character. Shy, a librarian by vocation, his timidity and panic is the only reason his lack of research done prior to disappearing makes any sense. I have several friends who are librarians whose knowledge and expertise in research would have made them far harder to track down than Tori Tanaka. To me Tori seemed a less substantial character than Nick.
An odd moment for me in Time Gone By is a mystical encounter Nick has with a Native American called Joe at Hopi Falls. Joe appears out of nowhere and gives Nick the advice he is searching for and then disappears again. Later Nick learns Joe is a ghost. A nice little sideline but as the story is lacking any other supernatural elements, it just seemed out of place in an otherwise straightforward novel.
I did appreciate Suzukawa making the local police officers efficient and nonjudgemental of two gay men in a relationship. Too often I have seen just the opposite in stories that equated small town cops with bigotry and incompetence. Neither bigotry nor fairness has jurisdiction determined by size of population.
In the end the murderer is revealed and his identity will shock no one familiar with murder mysteries either in books or on TV series, it is that predictable. But the romance between Nick and Tori was lovely, the location of Weller Falls beautifully realized, and Time Gone By had enough really nice elements for me to give it a 3.75 rating. Really nice job. I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next.
Cover: This is going to be one of my favorite covers of the month. The cover art is by Anne Cain who is just a wonder. With the Bitterroot Mountain range as the backdrop, the two men in front perfectly capture the two main characters. Just absolutely gorgeous in every way.