This well-written novel begins in Iraq and focuses on the friendship between two Marines: twenty-something John Houck and his hero and mentor, Captain "Lightning" Mike Bowers of the respected Force Recon Company.
Here in this war-torn country, the men find themselves caught up in the blinding flash of
an IED, and the heroic Mike unceremoniously saves John's life after himself
taking the full brunt of the attack.
The incident permanently cements their sense of comradeship, but in the aftermath Bowers has lost an eye, his body permanently scarred from the mayhem and chaos. In the end, it is always Lightning Mike who had reached out to John like something close to a brother, had seen a guy hanging on the periphery and doubting their mission, had brought his friend into the fold.
Barely an hour before they left on their mission, John read an email from his older sister, Patsy, informing him that his younger brother, Dean, had committed suicide. As John tries to cope with both incidents – Mike's dreadful injuries and Dean's untimely death – the events seem to echo throughout his mind, collecting grit and blood and adding to the loss and anarchy that surrounds him.
It isn't until John is back home in Devore that he realizes that Mike had acted like a man with no interest in seeing him again.
As he spends his days thinking about his brother while also eking out an existence in his trailer, John realizes that he just needs to see Mike again, perhaps in an attempt to turn his gratitude into some kind of action.
John travels to Owenville imbued with a feeling of helplessness and dissatisfaction.
At Mike's house, he comes upon the scene of a crime that shakes his very soul and forces him to confront his deepest fears and prejudices:
he finds a shirtless Mike Bowers tied to a metal bed frame in his house, arms and his legs splayed in front of him on the blood-stained sheets in the form of a seated crucifixion.
In an instant, John sees a universe covered in blood-spilled violence happening just as easily in Owensville as in the streets of Ramadi. When a tall, slender fellow appears, by the name of Alex Martin, John is convinced that Alex is the culprit.
Then Alex tells John that all these years he's actually been Mike's lover and partner, and that they have been trying to forge a life together. Blindsided by maelstrom of conflicting emotions, John must now face the realization that Bowers had
long been lying to him.
What follows is a complicated cat-and-mouse game as author Christopher Rice fuels his multi-twisting plot with various nefarious characters,
one of whom most likely murdered Mike. John has made a seriously bad mistake in pursuing the wrong man and allowing the real killer to escape with all the evidence of his crime; even more disastrous is that he then sends the man who paid most dearly for his mistake out into the night alone.
Thoughts of GHB, "crimes against nature" and sexualities kept secret recede from view as John makes an effort to retrace Alex and Mike's steps.
He is plunged into a world of San Diego gay bars and Southern Californian desert communities, where crooked cops and wealthy socialites fight for control and where the mystery of Mike's death ends up hanging on a life insurance policy that everyone is willing murder for.
Although Blind Fall is a suspense thriller, Rice layers his serpentine plot with some sharply incisive observations on current attitudes to gays in the military, to these men who are so often closeted and marginalized by society, and of the straight men who can sometimes demonize them out of bigotry and fear.
Part of the arc of this story is that John is finally forced to confront his own personal homophobia as he searches through the detritus of his dead brother and his best friend,
as well as a sister who over the past ten years has come to resent him.
Repaying his debt to Mike means protecting Alex no matter the cost – especially later, when John and Alex are both branded fugitives and then inexplicably connected by the handsome and manipulative Captain Ray Duncan to Mike's gruesome murder.
In the last half of the novel, the story takes on a sudden dramatic turn, forcing John to
admit that the horrors of war cannot always protect him from the terrible agonies of the present.