Review: Tainted Love by T.S. Hunter from Red Dog Press

Fast paced, engrossing, nostalgic yet essential for the modern audience. Keeps you guessing ‘til the end. An exciting addition to the rapidly growing cannon of LGBT literature.

Available to buy at:

All Formats     Paperback Direct from Red Dog Press

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Representation matters. The LGBT community is under attack once again, protests are happening which claim that we are not valid. Our relationships don’t matter, they should be neither recognised nor taught. Really distressingly, the press is giving credence to these views as are the schools that have responded to the protests. I can only speak to the experience of my own journey, but had we had TV shows such as Pose, musicals like Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and novels like Tainted Love when I was a teenager, I might have come out long before 28. I might have felt it was safe to do so, I might not have feared rejection, I might not have feared being singled out for ridicule or felt that I would have to battle for basic rights. I might not have felt abnormal. I might have felt as though there were a place for me. We have come a long way in recent years, and this fantastic, engaging crime novella is evidence of that, but don’t let that deceive you into thinking that representation doesn’t need to be a focus anymore, that it’s been achieved. It hasn’t. We’re on the right track as a society, but there is a long way to go.

Tainted Love is set squarely in the LGBT experience, our history runs through it. First and foremost, though, it’s a superb crime story with a great cast of characters driving the fast-paced plot along. I have found myself reading more and more novellas over the last year, they are an underappreciated form and there are some great practitioners out there. Tainted Love is a great example, the cast are all fully formed often utlilising very little word count to achieve such. Our story is in the classic whodunnit mold, following Joe Stone on a trip to London and the mystery he gets sucked into in tragic circumstances surrounding the death of his best friend Chris. (Its in the blurb, so not a spoiler!). From underworld gangsters, to crooked cops, via drag queens and the celebrity swamped world of the fashion industry Tainted Love has everything you could ask for from a thriller. That it is the first in a series is really exciting, these are wonderful characters and the opportunity to spend more time with them over the coming years is very welcome.

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T.S. Hunter’s writing is fluent and vivid. Frequent visitors to this blog will know I’m a big fan of classic noir stylings, and this novella has them in spades. No page is wasted, no sentence is wasted. A world is built, essential in a first novel of a series, without feeling like world building is what is going on. Our story is squarely about the thriller, this is not an origin story. Yet we get to know Joe and start to understand what drives him, one of my favorite sequences in the book comes towards the very end, in a bar and nothing to do with the whodunnit (the events of the book led him to said bar, but that’s not really what this sequence is about). I won’t say any more for risk of falling into spoiler territory. Needless to say, I hope we get to find out what happens next in future novels.

There is a balance to the writing that makes Tainted Love so engrossing, classic noir written in a really modern fashion but set in 80s London. We have influences across 70 years or more condensed into one gripping tale. A remarkable amount is achieved in 125 pages, testament to the authors skill. Although we don’t know the identity of T.S. Hunter, based on the evidence here this is not his first rodeo. The prose has an assured confidence that usually comes with experience, the structure exhibits an intimate understanding of how to piece together a detailed, gripping, entertaining noir tale and crucially the ability to deliver on that.

A wonderful thriller, with a diverse and interesting cast of characters, Tainted Love is worth the really rather small amount of money that Red Dog Press are asking for it and lots more besides. You won’t be disappointed and personally I’m really excited to see where the next entry in this new series takes us.

If all of this sounds like a story you would enjoy, Red Dog Press are running a giveaway to tie in with the blog tour and book launch. You can win all the lovely stuff in the picture below. Just follow this link for full details of how to enter: Prize Draw!!

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And don’t forget to follow along with the rest of the blog tour, or catch up on some of the earlier entries. Some great bloggers included!

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