Title: A Body To Dye For (Stan Kraychik Book 1)
Author: Grant Michaels
Publisher: ReQueered Tales
Release Date: June 15, 2019
Genre(s): Murder mystery
Page Count: 241
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.70 stars out of 5
Stan Kraychik is a hairdresser in Boston, leading a successful hairdresser’s life. Successful hairdressers’ lives vary widely but they usually have one thing in common – no dead bodies.
Not only does Stan find a dead body but the police suspect that he’s the killer. Stan, on the other hand, suspects his arrogant client, Calvin, who dragged him into his mess. Proving Calvin did it will clear Stan’s name. Proving it without landing into a different pool of trouble… well, that’s a problem Stan will have to solve.
Grant Michaels’ zany series of adventures starring Stan Kraychik garnered multiple Lambda Literary Awards including a 1991 nomination for Best Gay Mystery for “A Body to Dye For”. For this new edition, Carl Mesrobian reminisces about his brother Grant in an exclusive foreword, and Neil S. Plakcy provides an appreciation in a 2019 introduction.
Hey, this was fun! For me, this is the second time ReQueered Tales makes me discover a gay classic, and I truly hope they’ll keep them coming. This time, we get a nicely wrapped murder mystery starring a slightly stubborn amateur sleuth, Stan Kraychik aka Vannos, who’s a Bostonian hairdresser when he’s not stumbling over dead bodies. At the beginning of the story, he’s working on Calvin, one of his least appreciated male clients, a real arrogant prick but, alas, one of those who seem to have it all: looks, hot body, wealth, and success with The Hunks. That much is obvious when Stan gets to meet Calvin’s latest hook-up, Roger, a hot Californian dude who’s staying at Calvin’s place. That tanned, muscled lad would be right up Stan’s alley. He can’t believe his luck when said Roger invites him to come have a drink with him and his host, ghastly Calvin (much to the latter’s dismay). But when Stan enters Calvin’s richly furnished flat that evening, he finds Calvin hysterical, whereas Roger is lying in Calvin’s bed, very naked, and very… dead. Strangled.
And Stan’s problems begin. Because Calvin tells the police a bunch of lies implying Stan has killed the young dude from the Golden West. The (hunky) officer leading the investigation, Lieutenant Branco, doesn’t believe in Stan’s guilt, but his homophobe superior does. Therefore, Stan seems to have no choice: if he doesn’t want to end up in jail for a crime he hasn’t committed (and of which he supposes hateful Calvin to be the culprit), he needs to find out why Calvin would have murdered the poor Californian, and why Roger has come East in the first place. That involves several funny and dangerous situations, and even a trip out West… And the future (there are five more novels in this series) might or might not hold encounters of the steamy kind in store for Stan and therefore the reader.
Granted, some developments in this fast-paced murder mystery feel slightly far-fetched (mainly, Stan’s decision to go looking for answers in California). But the amateur sleuth-trope is always walking the line between likely and implausible, anyway, and if you like this kind of fiction, you’re not going to look too closely at how probable it is that an amateur would want to do a cop’s job (or why they would believe they could do it better than a cop). Stan is an extremely likeable character telling his story in well-crafted sentences that make up this first-person narrative. He’s sweet, somewhat self-conscious, stubborn, often referring to his Czech heritage, bold, and clever. The secondary characters are nicely depicted as well (kudos for inventing the character of Stan’s boss, eccentric Nicole), the dialogues made me chuckle more than once, the descriptions were lively and to-the-point. I really loved this book with its cleverly invented plot, and I was more than happy to discover that Grant Michaels (who passed away in 2009, alas) wrote five more Stan Kraychik-novels. Hopefully, ReQueered Tales will re-publish them as well in ebook-version, because I really dig this kind of fun-read with its pinch of suspense.
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