Title: A Deadly Kind of Love
Author: Victor J. Banis
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com 2nd Edition
Genre: Contemporary Murder Mystery
Length: Novel (208 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: In many ways I loved this story, book six in the Deadly mystery series, and in others I had some problems.
Nothing bad is supposed to happen in Palm Springs.
At least that’s what San Francisco private detective Tom Danzel and his partner Stanley Korski believe. But when their friend Chris finds a dead body in his hotel room bed, Tom and Stanley drive out to help the local police investigate.
What they discover is a gangster’s plot, a rather nasty green snake, and an elegant hotel that offers delicacies not usually found on a room service menu. The two detectives are going to have to rely on their skills and each other if they’re going to survive this very deadly kind of love.
Deadly Mystery Series
A Deadly Kind of Love is the sixth installment of Victor J. Banis’ great, well-written Deadly mystery series (all reviewed on this site) starring former San Francisco Police Inspectors — and current private investigators — Stanley Korski and Tom Danzel. While this conceivably could be read as a standalone, I don’t recommend it as the previous installments build up the characters and give insight to thoughts and actions.
Set just under three months from the end of the previous book, the story opens with Chris, Stanley’s best friend, returning to the Winter Beach Inn, an über-posh gay resort in Palm Springs, California. He is there vacationing and enjoying the…sights, as it were. He makes his way back to his room, falling into bed only to find a naked man in it that is stiff in all the wrong ways — as in dead. After alerting hotel management, he places an SOS to Stanley and Tom, who immediately drive down to help. When they arrive, they find that the dead man is a regular at the Inn, lovely “icing” on the cake that the older, very wealthy men who stay there come to expect. And if money changes hands, well, that is no business of the management. As they investigate along side of the PSPD, the bodies begin to pile up and Tom and Stanley run into all sorts of characters — cowboys, fake samurai, resort staff, pretty young boys and wealthy older patrons — any of whom could be the murderer.
Stanley and Tom are one of my favorite couples in this genre, and it’s always a pleasure to pick up a new book starring them and their adventures by this excellent author. This new book overall did not disappoint. As angsty as the previous novels were, this one is the opposite as their relationship, now at a year in length, takes a back seat to the case. While there are mentions of the happening (Stanley and his little crisis) at the end of the previous book and they both internally muse a bit about where they are heading as a couple, one thing I found myself missing was them talking about their issues because Tom and Stanley’s conversations are wonderful, giving insight into their characters and interactions, and strengthening what they have built. And what I find interesting is, as the series progresses, it’s Tom — the one for whom this same-sex relationship is new and scary — who is certain of their future and Stanley who has doubts. Even though there is relatively little focus on their relationship, I can see that the differences between them are still problematic — Tom isn’t gay and Stanley really doesn’t want to be a detective.
The story is more action-oriented than the previous one, the cast of colorful characters larger and the mystery decently complex. While I guessed the whodunit very early on, it was fun to watch Tom and Stanley figure it out. And Stanley once again gets himself into trouble, making for a dramatic, almost over-the-top ending that you see coming a mile away. Even so, Tom is muy macho in his statement about getting back his man:
“Look, I appreciate your concern, but here’s what I do. I kick ass. I’m going to kick his. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking swords or boxing gloves or water pistols, the bottom line is still the same. He’s got Stanley and Stanley is mine. I get him back. And I kick ass. End of game.”
A few niggles:
I’ll bring up the elephant in the room, which is that A Deadly Kind of Love was published by Dreamspinner Press, not MLR Press as the first five books were. I won’t speculate as to why that is (and I really don’t care), but it is and for me, next to the big cover change (it’s an improvement in my opinion, but is that guy on the left is supposed to be Tom??), the story itself felt…different to me. I can only assume that my perception is a product of editor changes because it felt…tighter than the other stories and the voices felt different. I thought maybe it was my imagination, but then I re-read most of the series over the last week and it was even more noticeable to me. I cannot even really articulate what I mean other than that. Other readers many not feel the same and I welcome discussion about this.
Next, toward the end of book three, Deadly Dreams, Tom is injured in a fire and explosion, the lasting effects of which are scars from burns mostly on the left side of his face. From the end of that story, through books four and five, the only injuries described and talked about are these burns/scars; in fact, quite a bit of book four, Deadly Slumber, is taken up with the topic and its effects on Tom, Stanley, their relationship, and how the outside world views Tom now. In A Deadly Kind of Love, we are told for the first time that Tom also gained a metal hip from the experience. My initial reaction was “WHAT? How did I miss that?” So I went back and re-read the end of book three through book five and there is not one mention of it. This metal hip and its injury make several appearances in A Deadly Kind of Love, and keeps Tom from wanting to fly to Palm Springs because of the hassle and delay it causes at the airport. In the previous book, Deadly Silence, Tom travels to San Diego by air with no hesitation. My gut reaction is that the hip was introduced specifically to play a part in the end of the book and as such, it felt a contrived.
Lastly, we are reminded numerous times that Tom has no interest in — doesn’t even notice — other men, that he is in love with Stanley and that is that. He is not gay, not even bi. He thinks here “He had never lusted after men, and had been mostly unaware of them lusting after him.” While I agree that he is definitely into Stanley and Stanley alone, and that before Stanley he had no interest in men, there are several instances in previous books where Tom definitely noticed other men (and noticed other men noticing him), even going as far to say in Deadly Slumber that if Stanley wasn’t in the picture, he’d jump on one of the pretty Bartholomew funeral directors.
Despite my couple of issues, I really liked this sixth book in the Deadly series and eagerly await the next installment.