Lavender House, 1952: the family seat of recently deceased matriarch Irene Lamontaine, head of the famous Lamontaine soap empire. Irene's recipes for her signature scents are a well guarded secret—but it's not the only one behind these gates. This estate offers a unique freedom, where none of the residents or staff hide who they are. But to keep their secret, they've needed to keep others out. And now they're worried they're keeping a murderer in.
A tense character-driven story ... Rosen sculpts fully realized characters ... Each character’s personal struggles are expertly shown. Like in most families, there are squabbles, pettiness and annoyances punctuating every day, but there also is pure, unconditional love and acceptance that elevate Lavender House. Rosen leaves the door open for what would be a most welcomed sequel.
... a queer locked-room mystery that is as enticing as it is historically resonant ... a crisply and cleverly constructed novel: the noir-like mystery at its heart is strong, but it is made stronger --- rather than weighed down --- by the stylish, punchy and historically accurate choices of its author. As Rosen notes in his back matter, history books and our own modern biases often encourage us to believe that queer people were invented with Stonewall and that everyone was straight or yearning before then. They have existed --- and loved, supported and, yes, married each other --- in even the most perilous times ... But Rosen doesn’t dwell on the darkest parts of queer history (though he doesn’t shy away from them, either), choosing instead to show readers what freedom really means to those for whom even existence is a crime. The striking dissonance between the freedoms of his characters and the dark, old-money murder at the heart of the novel makes every chapter immersive, spellbinding and utterly riveting ... An old-world mystery written for a new-world audience, Lavender House is everything readers love about noir mysteries elevated by everything missing from them: marginalized characters, modernized tropes and clear-eyed reckonings with painful histories. Rosen is an absolute gem of an author, and I cannot wait to see what he does next.
Insightful ... Andy gets to know every character, with all their petty squabbles and the festering resentments. Underpinning the murder mystery is commentary on queerness, freedom and what it means to be family, which flavors every interaction ... Readers who love queer history, complicated family dynamics, flawed characters and a good murder mystery will be eager for more.