Title: Vacation Therapy
Author: Lance Zarimba
Cover Artist: Deana C.Jamroz
Publisher: MLR Press
Amazon: Buy Link Paperback and Kindle
Length: 352 pages, over 90k words
Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: This mystery, which takes place in a gay resort with a supposedly straight and supposedly funny narrator, bored me and I could not wait for it to be over.
Welcome to Club Fred
Taylor’s best friend, Molly planned his perfect vacation. Checking into an all male resort, he and Sergio discover a dead body, which disappears. As Taylor stumbles over it again, the problems have only started in this tropical paradise.
Taylor befriends the hottest male porn star, an angry drag queen, and a mystery novelist, whose new novel is paralleling Taylor’s trip. Men are dropping at his feet, dead, and Taylor needs to escape this trip to hell. Mother Nature has other plans. Now, Taylor must blend in and with the hindrance of Sergio, he’ll be in the spotlight for sure. This duo is turning Club Fred into Club Dead
Occupational therapist Taylor is going on a vacation which his friend Molly booked for him. He is annoyed when it turns out that instead of sending him to Club Med, she booked him for Club Fred, a gay resort. Deciding to make the best of it, Taylor accepts his friend Sergio’s offer to room together. Taylor flir…I mean strikes a fast friendship with Tom, who is, as Taylor learns from Sergio, is the hottest gay porn star out there. Unfortunately, the relaxing vacation very quickly turns into the nightmare vacation when Sergio and Taylor find a body in their room. After a series of peek-a-boo happenings with the body, Taylor is sure that somebody is now after him as well.
My problems with the story started when I could not figure out the reason for Taylor’s annoyance about going to a gay resort. Not until he arrives at Club Fred do we learn that Taylor is supposedly not gay. I say supposedly because unless I missed something, Taylor never flat out says that he is not gay. It feels as if he is dealing with his sexuality in a passive aggressive way. From time to time Sergio teases and makes passes at him a little, and I felt that all Taylor does is scowl in response. He never gets really angry at Sergio, just teases him back about other things. Honestly, it just felt weird and I did not know what to make of such behavior. While I am not a huge fan of “Gay For You” stories, if this is where Taylor’s character arc would have been going, I would have been fine with it, but it did not go there. It went nowhere in my opinion. Also, he never felt fully-fleshed to me, and it seems we are only given small clues to his personality and basic information about him.
In addition to a lack of character arc for Taylor, I found the pacing of the story odd. The first part, despite dead bodies and life-threatening accidents, felt very slow to me. It felt as if the writing did not reflect the urgency—the suspense—that somebody is killing people and narrator and his friend are in danger as well. And while it picked up in the second part, it still felt odd to me. It was just my reaction, of course, and other readers may feel differently.
Also, on an intellectual level I understand that the book is intended to be hilarious and a bit campy. Taylor frequently cracks jokes and other characters say supposedly funny things as well. Humor is subjective and unfortunately, mostly I did not find the jokes funny. This just was not my brand of humor, but other readers may find it very comical.
One thing I did really like was that I could not predict who the villain was in this mystery. That part worked well for me.
At the end of the book, the author tells us that this is going to be the first part of a series (the case is completely self-contained) about an occupational therapist who solves crimes with help or hindrance of this friends, so I am going to guess (pure speculation) that there may romance between Taylor and Sergio in the future books. This is unconfirmed by anything I have read, however, and there is no romance in Vacation Therapy. If there will be, I hope the author will write in some sort of tension and chemistry between Taylor and Sergio, something missing in this installment. I also hope that Taylor will become more than a two-dimensional character, because right now I do not know anything about him besides what he does for a living and that he likes to make jokes. And he may be gay. Or not.