by Jim Piechota
The Killer Wore Leather by Laura Antoniou; Cleis Press, $16.95
Best known for her five-part Marketplace series of pansexual, BDSM-themed erotica novels, prolific author and essayist Laura Antoniou outdoes herself with The Killer Wore Leather, an oversized yet entertaining and completely engrossing new mystery novel with a kinky twist.
From the opening scene, it's obvious that the author has been to more than a few leather conventions by the precise description of a Manhattan hotel atrium buzzing with anticipation and sexual energies – and plus-sized, corseted "Bitsy" Olmstead, a single slave nearing 40 who is looking for her "Master Wonderful" while loudly announcing to the crowd when registration will begin. That's just an example of Antoniou's grand command of atmosphere and characterization, on display throughout the mystery. Then there's the Zodians, a stereotypical "confederation" of longtime kinksters who act like they're on a Star Trek movie set. Antoniou obviously derived great pleasure concocting them.
Bitsy and hundreds of other leatherfolk have arrived for the crowning of the Mr. and Ms. Global Leather and Bootblack competition, including past winner Mack Steel, a much-loathed leatherman who is "easily distracted with shiny things," except for the three-pronged weapon that viciously slashes him in his hotel room. Enter NYPD detective Rebecca Feldblum, taking names, documenting evidence, and turning heads, namely that of her ex-girlfriend Trudy, who still harbors resentment at her decision to join the police force, a move that dissolved their relationship. Trudy once called Rebecca's officer's uniform an "emblem of oppression."
Attempting to wrap up the investigation in the span of a weekend proves no easy feat, especially for a detective who finds herself surrounded by such a wide array of leather and kink community personalities, each with their own axe to grind (or ass to flog). Antoniou's depictions of the kink community and of the dynamics of the power exchange between people are both spot-on accurate and viscerally titillating. A 2011 recipient of the National Leather Association's Lifetime Achievement Award, Antoniou continues to impress her faithful, kinky readership. Even readers of a more "vanilla" persuasion who are able to overlook the leather-slanted backdrop and steamy sexual situations will appreciate her flare for satirical dialogue and groups with acronyms that speak plenty (a protest group resembling the Westboro Baptist Church is drolly named the Western Harrisburg Alliance Church of Our Savior: WHACOS).
Sexy, funny, a swanky procession of leathered-up masters and slaves with names like Mistress Ravenfyre, Lord Laertes, Master Zenu, Wolfboy, Prairie Master and LeatherDreamz – what's not to love?
Laura Antoniou, proud member of the Middle-Aged Guard, will read from The Killer Wore Leather on Wed., April 24, 7:30 p.m., at the Leathermen's Discussion Group, Mr. S. Playspace, 385A 8th St.