The Return of Kate Delafield
Posted on 19, March, 2014 by Victoria Brownworth
Some old friends you only see occasionally, but when you do, you realize how much you have missed them. I feel that way about Kate Delafield. It’s been years since I’ve seen her (eight, to be exact), but when I ran into her again in Katherine Forrest’s new novel, High Desert, I was very glad to see her.
Katherine Forrest is one of our iconic lesbian mystery novelists and Kate Delafield was our first out lesbian detective.
With nearly a decade since Forrest’s last foray into the seamy world of the LAPD, it may have seemed as if we wouldn’t see Delafield again.
But–she’s back. Not with a bang, nor with a whimper, but with a full-throated cry of foul at the various hands she’s been dealt since we saw her last.
High Desert, the ninth in Forrest’s Delafield series, opens anomalously, sans crime. The detective is re-arranging herself in her own living room as she awaits a visit from her former lieutenant, now a captain, Carolina Walcott. The smooth, tough, driven, no-nonsense African-American Walcott is visiting a subordinate for a very specific reason:
She needs Kate’s help finding Kate’s former partner, Joe Cameron.
There’s no crime. Well, no new crime. There is, however, the ghost of an old case, one of those cases that breaks a detective. That case–Tamara Carter’s murder–has haunted Joe and by extension, Kate.
Captain Walcott needs to find Joe, who’s disappeared while on a leave of absence, and fast. Kate is now forcibly retired and she has issues. Her longtime partner, Aimee, has left her. Again. Alcohol has become her best friend. Another actual best friend, Maggie Schaeffer, owner of the Nightwood Bar that was the scene of one of Kate’s early cases, is dying of lung cancer in hospice care. And now the remnants of Kate’s life are all around her in an ugly, untidy, possibly unfixable mess.
Walcott’s visit is unsettling in the extreme because it rips right through Kate’s thin veneer (more like mask) of complacent retirement. After a quarter century on the job, the 60-something Kate is at a loss. Every time she thinks about what she should do next, the most obvious answer lies in a nearby bottle, of which she has many.
Walcott suggests therapy with Calla Dearborn, who may or may not be Walcott’s lover.
Like every loner addict, Kate is infuriated by the suggestion that she needs help. After all, she’s the one who has helped others all along. She wants to shove Walcott out the door, but the tantalizing lifeline that Walcott has tossed her can’t be ignored. She takes Dearborn’s card. And agrees to help Walcott find Cameron.
High Desert is proof there is life in the old gal yet–both Forrest, who is hitting 75 next month–and Delafield, who remains the complex and engaging character she always was.
This is solid detective fiction of the page-turning sort. If the early chapters feel too caught up in Kate’s personal turmoil, that’s essential to what comes next. As Kate takes on Walcott’s mission, we see how her detective skills have not diminished one iota.
Read entire review at: LAMBDA LITERARY