Title: Murder at the Oasis (Mason Adler Series #3)
Author: David S. Pederson
Publisher: Bold Stroke Books
Release Date: August 15, 2023
Genre(s): Crime Procedural, M/M Historical
Page Count: 231
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
In this third book in David S. Pederson's Mason Adler series, we find private detective Mason Adler and his friend, interior designer Walter Wingate, in Palm Springs for a short vacation. While the pace of the book is a bit slow, it's refreshing to get a glimpse at a time when vacations weren't adventure travel, when you dressed for dinner even on vacation (I adore Walter and his light plum tuxedo jacket), and crimes were solved despite the lack of DNA technology and high-tech forensics.
While staying at the Oasis Inn, Mason and Walter meet most of the guests around the swimming pool - Miss Ermengarde Campbell and Miss Myrtle Schultz, the dysfunctional Pruitt family, Cornelia Atwater (a newspaper reporter who suspects Angus Pruitt may be involved in her brother's recent death), and bit by bit, the tensions come to the surface - the coy and cloying flirtations, the constant watchfulness, the marital spats and crude unkindness, until there is a death which at first appears to be natural.
Detective Branchford of the Palm Springs PD is assigned the case, and with Mason's clear-eyed observations and some good teamwork between the two men, the case is gradually solved. I like the densely constructed plot full of minute details and careful inquiries that all slowly lead to the resolution of the murder(s), along with a few surprises at the end.
Detective Brian Branchford and Mason work well together in solving the murders, and there are more than a few hints their mutual interests may extend beyond detective work. As Branchford asks Mason:
"Indeed. Hmm. You married, by the way? For the record."
"No, no, I'm not. Never have been. You?"
"I'm a widower. [...] Do you visit Palm Springs often?"
As always, I love the post-war setting, Walter's observations about fashion and interior design of the era, details like Dorothy Dandridge performing in Palm Springs, the high cost of fine dining ("Two dollars and twenty-five cents plus tip for a turkey dinner? I could get that same dinner in Phoenix for a dollar sixty.") and so on.
I hope future books in the series explore a relationship between Brian and Mason. After these three books, Mason Adler appears to be a man of strong character who longs for a life with someone, and we are getting a sense of what makes Walter tick as well as how their friendship works. They both deserve something better than having to resort to subterfuge and half-truths:
"[...] So, you two fella traveling alone?"
"Yes," Mason said. My lady friend, Miss Lydia Dettling, had to stay behind. She works at J.C. Penney and couldn't get the time off. And Mr. Wingate here is a confirmed bachelor."
I received an ARC from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.