Review of The Distance Between Us

GL&R March – April Edition 2024

Gay and Lesbian Review

by A. C. Burch
HomePort Press. 370 pages, $17.99

Feisty, effervescent self-described “full-time female impersonator” and part-time amateur sleuth Helena Handbasket returns in The Distance Between Us, a boisterous, rollicking follow-up to The Home Port Journals. Provincetown and nearby Cape Cod communities Wellfleet and Truro combine to make an atmospheric setting for this insular yarn featuring murder, mayhem, several bold art heists, and enough suspects and motives to sink the yachts in the historic harbor.

Burch hits the ground running with an electrifying opening. Wealthy, widowed aspiring socialite Bronx transplant C. J. Stronge, whose “idea of bliss was a night in bed with Edith Wharton,” has a fateful appointment with local legendary painter Mavis Chandry (her canvases sell in the millions), when a “deliberate electrocution” intervenes. Was Mavis the actual target? This is one of many questions Helena steps in to solve. As the inheritor and executive director of the Staunton sisters’ estate, Helena oversees the soon-to-be open Staunton Museum, with its outrageously valuable collection of forgotten Impressionists appraised at $400 million. Mavis has agreed to donate some of her work to enhance the museum’s gala opening. Before that happens, her paintings are vandalized with obscene graffiti. Was someone out to destroy Mavis’ collection and ruin the museum’s reputation?

The list of culprits is a lengthy one. Past personal secrets and present shady characters include an obsessive, homophobic acting chief of police, an inept architect, and a sketchy New Jersey physician and real estate developer. Tensions among townies, “washashores,” and “onion rings” (social climbers who don’t contribute) escalate along with thrilling boat races, chases, and getaways in nail-biting sequences. Helena’s colorful “chosen family” are secondary characters who support her investigative skills. All of this makes for an exuberant, entertaining read, with hopes for more perils of Provincetown to come.

Robert Allen Papinchak

The Distance Between Us