Title: Sunfish & Starfish: Tropical Drag Queen Detectives
Author: Wallace Godfrey
Publisher: Strand Hill Books
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Genre(s): contemporary, gay mystery
Page Count: 350
Reviewed by: LenaRibka
Heat Level: 0 flames out of 5
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Two unlikely heroes. Two confounding mysteries. How did a $1,000 jewel encrusted Prada shoe end up under a dumpster in a back alley in a deserted part of town? And will we ever find out whether the man hiding in the shadows of a South Florida gay bar is really a conservative South Carolina reverend—who’s running for Congress? Two fun-loving drag performers are lured out of the spotlight and into some very dark places: the shady, drug-fueled world of Miami’s high-society debutantes, and the cutthroat world of national politics.
Larry Nussbaum and Oscar Arias (a.k.a Sunfish & Starfish) find their campy little seaside life nearly torn apart by intrigue and deception—as well as their own character flaws and hapless investigations. The police refuse to help. Mobs of protestors threaten them and their families. Even their friendship takes a hit. But when they finally try to walk away, they are drawn right back in by events beyond their control and an unquenchable need to find the truth.
Oh dear…How I wanted to like this book!..
The blurb sounded INTERESTING, promising and fancy. I watched some movies about the world of drag but I have never read a full-length novel where the main characters were drag performers, these beautiful creatures who use their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to entertain and mesmerise!
And, be honest, how often do you come across a book with TWO drag queens at the same time in a leading role?
And not just a book – a mystery! And not just a mystery, but one of the best mysteries of the year, because this book was nominated for the 28th Lambda Award in the category Gay Mystery!
Maybe I had too high expectations, we all know that high expectations SOMETIMES could be very tricky.
The good things:
Extraordinary and likable protagonists. This duo has potential to fill a niche in a genre.
Larry and Oscar are not a love couple, but best friends and partners on stage. They differ not only in appearance, they are different also in their ideas and ways of living and thinking. Larry – the six-foot-two, two-hundred-fifty-pound hairy bear of a man – has his feet planted firmly on the ground, he lives together with Stan, his life partner since 15 years. The ever single Oscar, a star-spangled Hispanic, 12 years younger than Larry, hopelessly romantic young man with dreams too big for the real world.
A decent writing style.
The author is a full-time ghostwriter and novelist. He is not a beginner, and one can feel it.
What disappointed me mostly was a mystery part. When I pick up the book, that is supposed to belong to one of the best gay mysteries of the year, I expect a mystery, that will keep me on the edge of my seat all the time, I expect to be stuck to it and not to be able to put it down.
For the most part of the book I felt bored. And irritated. Because I didn’t see what Oscar saw, and I wasn’t convinced with the explanations the author delivered me trying to justify Oscar’s annoying behavior.
An expensive lonely left (or was it right?) shoe under a dumpster in a parking lot leads to surveillance video that recorded two fighting people without giving away their faces, and this video in turn leads to a very reach girl with a black eye, THAT in turn leads to a BAD BOYFRIEND. OH HOW AWFUL. (thinking about Oscar’s life. It has to be awful. Otherwise he wouldn’t have paid so much attention to this CASE)
You HAVE to have a VERY good fantasy and a well-developed six sense to suspect something wrong here, and it is exactly what everyone DID NOT.
Except Oscar. He sacrificed his free time, his power and sanity hunting a BAD BOYFRIEND of an occasional reach girl that he takes VERY personally, following her every step and begging her to report it to police. I don’t know what I as a reader was supposed to feel. Probably compassion with the victim and admiration for Oscar’s exemplary moral courage, but all I felt was non-stop-eye-roll and annoyance. (thinking about refugees and their problems, but only because THIS BIG problem appeared so unimportant and uninteresting)
The easiness with that Oscar got an access to this reach circle (maids, house, friends, clubs), the eagerness with that everyone chattered with him about family and all kind of secrets, delivering any information he needed was very unbelievable. All he had to do was just to say, “I’m a friend of….”
Of course he was much luckier with his ingenious method than the police.
The fact that he WAS right with his suspicions, became irrelevant at the end, because
1) I didn’t care
2) of course you can find a crime behind many domestic violence cases that CAN look innocent at the first sight, but IF an author decided to make a thrilling story out of it, then he HAS to put more credibility, more healthy sense in the actions of his amateur sleuth.
Of course an author can do it without any logic, but at least it has to be FUNNY and WITTY. It is always helpful when any good sense is secondary.
And it is WHERE I come to my second complaint: I wish the story would be more humorous and have more funny situation, because OBVIOUSLY two drag artists offer all these good stuff by themselves. There were some funny situations, but not enough for my liking.
There are two subplots to the main story line:
I have to confess that I like them more than the main one
Edward Hannandale, a politician and a priest who names himself reverend and who is well known for his hate speeches towards gay society has been accidentally photographed in a gay bar during the show of Oscar and Larry. Suddenly Larry, together with Hannandale, are the number one news on all TV channels. And Jerry’s gay bar, a home stage for our boys, is occupied by all news team of the country. The whole situation got out of control.
My favorite subplot! Oscar and his love affair(s). Did he really mean it – AT LAST to leave Niko behind and make place for a new real relationship?
I understand that as a starter for a new series, the tasks of the first book was to provide readers with the first insight into surroundings, characters’ lives, it has to introduce not only those who play the main role in the series, but also those who play the second part. I can imagine, that I’ll like the next book more. The first case was solved and maybe the next case will be more interesting for me, and if there will be also more of a private life of our protagonists and less of a private life of people that are less interesting (to me), then I’ll probably enjoy it much more.