In Nava's latest novel featuring lawyer Henry Rios, it is 1986 in Los Angeles, and Rios is counsel for a group of young activists protesting a ballot initiative that could allow health officials to force people with HIV into quarantine camps. When one of his clients is implicated in the bombing of an evangelical church that kills its pastor, who publicly supported the quarantine initiative, Rios finds himself with a client suddenly facing the death penalty.
Michael Nava is a lively writer who can make dialogue and exposition exciting. He also knows how to build suspense. Nava paints a vivid picture of the homophobic and racist bullying of the Los Angeles Police in 1980s and before, using the real names of the police chiefs who maintained a tradition of prejudice and violence ... Lies with Man maintains the high standard Michael Nava set in the novels he wrote a generation ago. Nava is an impassioned writer who has once again created a fascinating picture of Los Angeles at an earlier, less enlightened time, centering on gay men trying to shed the shame they have been taught and becoming proud agents of social change.
In clumsy hands, this setup could lead to a stacked-deck battle between mean-spirited crusaders and beleaguered gay activists, but Nava, a six-time Lambda Literary Award winner, paints a nuanced portrait of a fascinating character on the pro-initiative side ... A similar proposition appeared on the real-life California ballot in November of 1986 but lost decisively. To crank up the drama of his story, Nava makes the vote much closer. That is certainly his prerogative, but I would have liked to see some analysis of why Californians—both actual and fictional—rejected the impulse to quarantine ... With so much law going on, I hasten to report that Nava explains it all clearly. Nor is he above making fun of the profession ... The law can also congratulate itself for turning out more than its share of novelists, including the talented Michael Nava.
Flawed characters readers can care about, including Daniel, who was protecting his gay son from the church, complement the twisty plot. This realistic, gritty mystery set during the AIDS crisis is an eye-opener.