I love a good mystery. I thrive on the opportunity to disappear into a who-done-it as I seek to solve the case, devouring clues until a resolution is reached. Penny Mickelbury gives readers the opportunity to enjoy a similar experience in her novel, Keeping Secrets: A Mimi Patterson/Gianna Maglione Mystery. She spins a good yarn about murder, media, and meeting a perfect match, along with weaving socially relevant content that says, “Be out and proud.”
The book, set in the nation’s capital, explores a budding relationship between D.C. Police Hate Crimes Unit Lt. Gianna Maglione and reporter Mimi Patterson. Complicating their path toward a relationship is a series of hate crimes targeting members of the LGBT community. Despite coming from diverse racial backgrounds, all the victims were horrifically murdered, were found in parking lots, and kept their sexual orientation private prior to their death. Mimi struggles to balance her responsibility to the public with her growing attraction to Gianna. For her part, Gianna feels the weight of trying to maintain her professional demeanor while facing the fact that people like her are being killed.
Like all good mysteries, the killer is caught in an emotionally charged sequence of events, which Mimi and Gianna each play a role in solving based on their respective professions. Because Keeping Secrets is the first of five novels detailing the couple’s relationship, readers can look forward to this couple having plenty of adventures.
As I progressed through this novel, there were moments during Mimi and Gianna’s adventures (i.e., plot twists) that felt easily resolvable or weren’t fully explored, which created times where I wanted further explanation or that muddled the book’s momentum.
On the flip side, Keeping Secrets handled well the notion of outing LGBT individuals. Despite the book being over twenty years old, the topic is still relevant today. Mickelbury balanced the topic so that it didn’t tilt the reader one way or another. I also liked the way the characters related to their male co-workers; their relationships felt authentic.
If you’re looking for mystery featuring QWOC leads, jump into Keeping Secrets and then come back soon to tell the Black Lesbian Literary Collective and other readers what you think.
Reviewer: La Toya Hankins
La Toya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. She is a native of North Carolina and currently resides in Durham, NC. Hankins considers writer and fellow Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. member Zora Neale Hurston as her role model for her ability to capture the essence of the African American Southern experience and living the motto, “I don’t weep at the world, I’m too busy sharpening my oyster knife.” You can connect with LaToya on Facebook and Twitter.