The suspicious death of an elderly widow on the grounds of the HomePort Estate sends shock waves through the seaside resort of Provincetown.
Wrongly accused of the murder, beloved female impersonator Helena Handbasket forsakes her oceanside mansion and goes undercover to track down those responsible. Aided by her chosen family, she uses her comic genius and extraordinary talent for impersonation to navigate a maze of deception and greed that includes a museum break-in, thefts of iconic artwork, and some shady liaisons. As the investigation gains momentum, the past increasingly influences the present, exposing hidden secrets and imperiling Helena’s well-heeled existence.
Set amid Cape Cod’s natural beauty and vibrant summer season, this captivating sequel to The HomePort Journals unfolds against the backdrop of a small town struggling to balance its newfound celebrity with a cherished way of life.
That would be Helena Handbasket, the former housekeeper who has inherited the Staunton fortune, serves as executive director of the Staunton Trust, and is ready to take on whatever role she must— “invincible artistic diva,” “the glamorous, successful museum director,” sail-boat racer, and eventually an undercover identity—to protect the HomePort Artists’ Colony. The Distance Between Us balances a smart detective story with a delightful portrait of a diverse, sparkling community, set amid cocktails, gallery openings, drag shows, fundraisers (Helena notes “Fundraising is a lot like doing drag, folks. Fake it until you make it”), and classic Cape Cod saltboxes. Burch blends the pulse of P-Town today—its washashores, its legendary showgirls, its summer people, its onion layers of secrets—with fascinating considerations of its history and highlight-worthy toasts to its beauty. On the view from nearby Truro: “Provincetown was a radiant necklace, the illuminated Pilgrim Monument its lavalliere, the night sky a black velvet backdrop.”
The mystery charms and surprises, but the novel’s deeper joy is its enticing depiction of a town and its people proudly out of the mainstream—the prose, plot, and dialogue gush and bubble like champagne uncorked. Readers who start with this entry will feel invited right in, though the first novel in the series, HomePort Journals, is also recommended.
Takeaway: A delightful novel of mystery and community in a beautifully evoked Provincetown.
Great for fans of: Jeannette de Beauvoir, Paul Lisicky’s Later: My Life at the Edge of the World.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
“Though marketed as an LGBTQ novel, the tale’s pathos and heartfelt communal spirit will endear Helena, Butch (Helena’s spouse), and Helena’s many friends and associates to mainstream readers as well.”
“In many ways, the tale is a timely tribute to the resilient, connecting spirit of drag performance and a push against the current political storm of misunderstanding and hatred.”
“Whether she’s mired in personal, political, or social conundrums, there’s one thing Helena profiles and represents—the powerful heartbeat of a community at odds with growing fame and its impact on individual ways of life.”
"Readers, book clubs, and libraries seeking LGBTQ+ examinations, Cape Cod cultural inspections, mysteries, and novels packed with social inquiry will welcome the dual threads of humor and serious inspection that capture the multifaceted world of Cape Cod, a microcosm of small-town experiences and change."
"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. "
“In this sequel, Burch summons Provincetown’s eclectic, art-and-barnacles ethos with an eye for detail and plenty of campy humor. . . Helena finds herself at the center of a murder case as strange as the Cape has ever seen, one involving stolen art, secret lovers, and some grade-A impersonating. . . the plot becomes secondary to the peculiar spell Burch weaves with Helena and her milieu.”
“The plot unfolds at a steady clip, the action while approaching zaniness never goes off the rails. . . It is a winner from A.C. Burch — twisty, engaging, and balanced.”