A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: Though I had some mixed feelings about this book, it’s a must-read for fans of the series
The hospital says it was an accident. Patience Pendleton says someone is trying to murder her father — but who? Her demented twin, Prudence? Or Farley, the jilted fiancée, who thought he would be marrying money? Or Zack, the queer brother threatened with disinheritance? Or, might it be the ghosts of past evil…?
Deadly Silence is book five of Victor J. Banis’ wonderful Deadly mystery series (all reviewed on this site) starring former San Francisco Police Inspectors — and current private investigators — Stanley Korski and Tom Danzel. Readers should note that while this conceivably could be read as a standalone, I definitely wouldn’t advise it as the previous installments build up the characters and give insight to thoughts and actions. Start with Deadly Nightshade and work your way though.
The story begins with our heroes being hired by Patience, a woman who wants them to look into the claim that someone tried to murder her father while he convalesces in a nursing home. Stanley and Tom both agree that there is something she isn’t telling him, but the cast of characters make it difficult to figure out what. Her drug-addled twin sister, Prudence, their gay brother, Zack, and Prudence’s fiancée, Farley, all have motive for wanting the older man dead. In the meantime, Stanley is finding himself restless and having a crisis of…something. Is it possible he is just not cut out to have a monogamous relationship no matter how much he loves Tom?
This was a difficult review for me to write because I had some mixed feelings after reading this latest installment of the Deadly series, and while what I say here may make it seem as if I didn’t like the book, that is not so. It is no secret that I am a big fan of this series, but at 170 pages, this is the shortest of the five books, and in my opinion, the weakest of the set. Don’t get me wrong; Victor Banis pens better stories than most authors out there today and it is still head and shoulders above the rest, but it just seemed a little…off to me. I wouldn’t even call my feelings issues or niggles, just an overall feeling that it wasn’t as good as the previous books. I thought the mystery element was a little less complex here, and I suspected the reveal long before it was brought to light. That didn’t lessen my enjoyment, it just was. I also found that this book, perhaps more so than the others, was introspective, somber and a bit angsty. There isn’t a ton of action, and Stanley doesn’t get himself into a jam as he is wont to do in the previous installments (allowing for Tom to come to his rescue often in dramatic fashion), making it a bit more sedate of a read.
At the base of the stories is the relationship between our heroes Stanley and Tom. We’re now about seven months into their relationship and there are some speed bumps, as many couples experience, but maybe theirs are somewhat more challenging. Unfortunately, there are fundamental differences between these two that will probably always make it tough for them, namely that Stanley is a “fag” and Tom isn’t. Tom has come a long way since book one and loves Stanley almost desperately, but he isn’t gay and doesn’t like those aspects of Stanley that are. Although Stanley understands, it is hurtful to him that there are parts of him that Tom will never be able to love or accept, making him consider acting a bit recklessly in this story (or as his best friend Chris says “He’s just working himself up to do something silly.”) and me wonder— though I trusted the author not to crush me or them — how it would turn out:
Given his druthers, Stanley would far rather have gone back to his decorating job, only Tom disapproved of that. It was “too gay.”
“But I am gay,” Stanley had argued, to no avail. That was something else Tom would never understand, probably. Tom didn’t see himself as gay, or even their relationship as gay; he was just in love. And he didn’t want to be in love with a decorator. Period. End of discussion. Only, there really hadn’t been any discussion, not on this point. Unilaterally, that was how Tom had settled the question.
Tom is perhaps the more simple of the two men, even by his own admission, and we pretty much always know what is going on in his mind. He may not always comprehend what is going on with either himself or Stanley, but he tries. I really felt for Tom here, even more so than Stanley, because in some ways I can relate to him as someone who is in a same-sex relationship who doesn’t consider herself lesbian. Here is a telling quote:
…there was much about Stanley Tom didn’t understand, including, he often thought, their entire relationship
For supporting cast, Chris and Inspector Bryce (who has it bad for Tom) reappear, the latter playing somewhat of a larger overall role in the story even though his onscreen time is limited. The three sibs and the fiancée make up the majority of the others, though there are a few extras that are involved.
I think one of the things I thought was absent here that was present in the previous books was humor. Like I said, the story is fairly somber and angsty — and even a little dark with Stanley’s thoughts — and I admit that I missed the at-times hilarious dialog between our protags and laugh-out-loud situations that often crop up. For me, what Stanley was going through seemed to permeate the entire book, even when the focus was on the mystery element. This wasn’t necessarily bad, it was just that I grieved a little at the loss of the lightness that was laced through the other installments.
Regardless of the little…whatevers I was feeling, Deadly Silence is a must-read for fans of the series, of the author, or mystery lovers.