Cold-blooded Tale

Fans of local mystery writer R.D. Zimmerman will find his latest offering, Outburst (Delacorte Press, $21.95), both shocking and familiar. As with the previous three Todd Mills mysteries, the tale centers on a gay investigative reporter working for a Minneapolis TV station. But when Mills becomes the sole witness to a homicide on the Stone Arch Bridge, the novel turns deliciously unpredictable.

Mills and his lover, Steve Rawlins, a police detective, team up to track down the killer, but they're increasingly at odds about how to handle the case. While struggling to resolve their sometimes-conflicting professional responsibilities, the pair put their relationship and their lives at risk. Zimmerman manages to throw in plenty of twists and turns, keeping the reader off balance until the last pages, when the identity of the killer is finally revealed. Is the murder the work of a fledgling serial killer? Why does Mills have the nagging suspicion that the answers are coming too easily?

Zimmerman's characters are well-developed and engaging. And it's always a pleasure to find well-crafted queer characters, especially queer heros. Equally hard to resist, at least for hometown readers, is the setting: Countless Twin Cities landmarks and institutions serve as backdrop to this suspenseful yarn. You may even learn something about Minneapolis-St. Paul history.

The author's attempts to weave important GLBT issues into his narrative are commendable, but somewhat less than deft. (At times readers may feel that they've stumbled into a Queer Studies 101.) Still, the overall effect remains pleasant. Outburst is an entertaining diversion.

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