paperback, 365 pages
Leon Robertson ignores the political correctness of not saying anything bad about anything, or more specifically, the unspoken alliance of “No Negatives About HOAs,” and writes this fictional murder mystery centering on homeowner association living. He reminds us that HOAs are not idealistic perfection of utopian societies warranting the existing special laws that hold them unaccountable to the state; that the subculture within them is subject to the dynamics of a society where the people are frustrated, feel unable to influence their government, and suffer from what has been diagnosed as the HOA Syndrome by psychologist, Dr. Gary Solomon.
In 1995, the sinister goings-on portrayed in the TV movie, The Colony was aired., where a family, after discovering “the billionaire owner’s murderous control over his ‘colony’ they try desperately to escape with their lives.” In 1999, the X-Files TV series ran “The Falls of Arcadia” about mysterious disappearances within an HOA, which aired some of the power issues with the HOA. Now, we have HOA Murders, first and foremost a murder mystery.
Cleverly, Robertson begins with two murders in Pima County, Arizona that leads detectives to, at first, look at a possible border smuggling or human trafficking incident, but when subsequent murders occur involving other HOA members they begin to look elsewhere, at the goings-on in the HOA community. The story flows easily with the skills of an accomplished story-teller.
The following dialogue is of note, as the Arizona Legislature has been rejecting the enforcement of the law that public streets belong to the public and not to the HOA. The investigating detectives pull up in front of the widow’s house, a unit in Fantasia HOA, and are met by a woman who tells them, “No parking on the streets.” The detective replies, “There’s no yellow marker, so you can’t tell people not to park here.” She replies, “The HOA can,” and the common HOA government dialogue continues.
And of course, shortly thereafter, we have the arrival of the HOA president demanding to know what was going on. When asked by the detective if the murdered person had any problems with the neighbors, the garrulous president became very quite. “Well, there was a problem with sun screens and we had get a lawyer involved” was the response from the president.
Robertson has accomplished a dual feat: an intriguing murder mystery involving the behavioral and private property restrictions by de facto, but unrecognized HOA governments; and a must for a movie. He has informed the public, through this all too believable story, that HOA living has its perils and there needs to be accountability to the state more so than a typical non-HOA community.