Guest Reviewed by Ami
Title: A Prayer for the Dead
Author: Victor J. Banis
Series: Deadly Mystery #7
Genre: MM Mystery
Length: 200 Pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: September 2, 2015
Available at: Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
Blurb: Does murder follow Tom and Stanley around, or do they follow the murders?
After a hospital stay, Stanley is invited by Father Brighton to convalesce at St. Marywood, an isolated monastery on the ocean cliffs of Big Sur. Upon arrival, Stanley finds Father Brighton dead. The order’s doctor writes it up as a death by natural causes, but those seem to be quite prevalent at the monastery. The recent demise of a young brother who fell from the cliffs is described as an accident, but Stanley’s nose is twitching. Plus the order’s finances have taken a sudden, mysterious turn for the better. Is something rotten at St. Marywood?
Stanley and Tom can’t resist digging around even if it means testing their tumultuous relationship against a gaggle of handsome, young, virginal, and—they are told—gay men.
Review: This is the latest installment in Deadly Mystery series by the high esteemed Victor J. Banis’s (trivia: do you know that he has his own Wikipedia entry as the ‘godfather of modern popular gay fiction’ and he has been writing since the 60’s??) As entry number 7 in the series, I feel like I need to write down preliminary information about it first, especially since the last book before this one was released four years ago.
This series has a special place in my heart. It is one of the series I read in my early years of reading MM genre (I read the first book back in 2009) and since then I have followed it religiously. I admit that I was in a phase of already saying goodbye to it, when I heard that Banis had difficulty writing due to his age and illness. Of course when I saw this on DSP’s upcoming soon page, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to read Tom and Stanley’s adventure again.
A Prayer for the Dead is first and foremost a mystery (and gay fiction) novel. If you are looking for romance and a steamy on-page relationship, you will be disappointed. Yes, Tom and Stanley are a couple, but their journey into the relationship has been written in the earlier books. In addition, Tom and Stanley are not that lovey-dovey, my eyes-are-for-you-only couple. In fact, I think Tom and Stanley are one of the most complex gay couples I have read over the years.
The root for that, for me at least, is how Tom has never seen himself as a homosexual. He has rather homophobic tendencies – he dislikes the outlandish behavior of his partner, Stanley (he doesn’t even like Stanley’s decorating job), he still thinks some attitudes are ‘too feminine’ and ‘faggy’. Even Stanley sometimes still thinks of Tom as being ‘too manly’. It’s not what you think of a perfect gay couple; it might even befuddle you, but that’s what makes them intriguing, I think.
Anyway, the mystery happens when Stanley and his best friend Chris go to St. Marywood and they find the dead body of Father Brighton, who invited Stanley to come to the friary in the first place. After working with Tom for a while in their detective agency, Stanley’s nose is twitching, as he is sure that Father Brighton’s death is not natural. Especially since there is also another death of a younger novice, who fell from a cliff, not long before Father Brighton’s death. Stanley is sure there is a connection behind it – and that some of the friars are keeping secrets.
I really enjoyed the mystery – the location of the friary gives an isolated closed murder feel to it, which I like from reading so many Agatha Christie’s novels when I was younger. I enjoyed the process of Stanley (and Chris) looking for clues — Tom himself joins the best friends after almost half-way through the book. I knew that one of the friars was responsible, but I was definitely wondering about the reason and what secret they were keeping. When I found out the reason (alongside Tom and Stanley), I was pleasantly surprised. My mind didn’t go that way, I guess. So yes, the mystery was good and satisfying.
On the personal side, however, namely Tom and Stanley’s relationship, I was a bit concerned. Despite their differences and the fact that both men can still enjoy the beautiful form of other guys (in Stanley’s case) or girls (in Tom’s case), I want my couple to be solid. I know it’s going to be more hard work, due to both men’s psyche, but I thought that we had passed the uncertainty phase from both Tom and Stanley back in book #5. Now … I am not sure. It feels like even Stanley is thinking about ‘life after Tom’, like he knows their relationship is not going to last. It left me with a bit bitter taste in my mouth.
Then again, I’m still very much pulled into Tom and Stanley’s gravity… so until it is written otherwise, I’m going to dismiss my concern and think of Tom/Stanley to be content with their relationship. I don’t know if Banis will continue this down the road and how, but as long as I’m still alive and able, if there’s a new Deadly Mystery book, I will definitely read it.
Overall Impression: I really liked it
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.*