The Distance Between Us
by A.C. Burch
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / LGBTQ
Print Length: 370 pages
Publisher: Homeport Press
Reviewed by Genevieve Hartman
A fast-paced murder mystery in Provincetown, MA touching on legacy, intimacy, and drag
The Distance Between Us by A. C. Burch follows Helena Handbasket, a recurring character from Burch’s previous novel, The HomePort Journals. Handbasket is a multi-talented larger-than-life person: Executive Director of the Staunton Museum & Trust, drag queen, budding sailor and pilot, and when the circumstances call for it, amateur detective.
After a body appears in the studio of a world-renowned Provincetown painter—a studio supported by the Staunton Trust—and the painter’s work is vandalized in the Staunton Museum, Helena aims to get to the bottom of it.
In the wake of stolen paintings, uncooperative police officers, and mounting tragedies, questions around gentrification in Provincetown and tensions between the “townies” and the “washashores” (people born outside of Provincetown) continue to swirl. What motives and mysteries will Helena and her beloved friends and colleagues uncover when everything comes to light?
Housed in the lively and well-defined town of Provincetown, this novel has something for everyone. From lovingly rendered drag performances to cleverly devised traps to tender moments between lovers and friends, The Distance Between Us exhibits a wide emotional range. Helena’s love for her community and her commitment to those she loves and to herself take this book from just another mystery novel to something truly unique. Yes, there are hidden histories to uncover and criminals to catch, but there are also personal relationships to mend, artworks to appreciate, and joyful moments to be had.
Readers should note that reading The Distance Between Us requires commitment: the cast of the book, helpfully included at the beginning of the novel, takes up two full pages. It takes close reading to trace the carefully woven connective tissue that makes up “P’town” and its residents. Some might have trouble keeping track of folks, but for most, these major and minor characters sweeten the novel. The story of Helena, her family and friends, and the legacy of the inimitable Staunton sisters is written with precision, and the town of Provincetown and the lives of its residents come to life through stakeouts, art exhibitions, covert meetings at the gold course, and canapes with friends.
Through immense pressure, moments of loss, and questions about identity and belonging, Helena is a brilliant protagonist that is always changing and growing, and importantly, always thinking ahead. In The Distance Between Us, Burch has crafted an intricate yet heartfelt page-turner that leaves readers engaged to the last.
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