Title: A Prayer for the Dead
Series: A Tom and Stanley Mystery
Author: Victor J. Banis
Publisher: DSP Publications
Length: 200 Pages
At a Glance: Another solid and thoroughly entertaining mystery. Despite my mixed emotions about the relationship, I do love the characters’ complexity and the cleverness of the plot, and am really hoping for another book.
Reviewed By: Lindsey
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.
Continues the Deadly Mysteries published wit MLR Press.
First Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, September 2011
Review: Okay, so this is the seventh book in the Deadly Mysteries series. Dreamspinner published it a few years ago, and this is the second edition, now published through DSP Publications. I read it back when it was originally published, and it had been a while so when the opportunity arose to review this edition, I jumped on it. I’m glad I did because in the years since my original read, I forgot so many of the details and got sucked right back into the mystery.
The mystery kept me engaged from beginning to end, starting off when, in the hospital, Stanley receives a visit from a Friar. The end result is Stanley accepting an offer to convalesce in Big Sur and is accompanied by Chris, his best friend. Tom originally stays behind to work on other cases. Thus, the first half of the story involves Stanley and Chris arriving to a dead body and a lot of questions, weird behaviors from the other Friars, and just an all-around bad feeling. They do their best to piece together the strange happenings, all the while getting into some awkward as well as funny situations. The setting and descriptions of the monastery were ideal for this story. The Northern California location gave off a feeling of dangerous beauty while capturing the isolation of the friary.
When Tom arrives, he is drawn in and brings in a different perspective and ideas on what could be happening. Obviously, since I read this a few years, the ending this time around was not necessarily a huge surprise. But I had forgotten all the little details that led to the discovery and because I already sort of remembered the result, I was able to see more of the carefully hidden clues that I didn’t notice previously, which is one of the things I thoroughly enjoy doing with my favorite mysteries when I re-read them—knowing how everything plays out.
Though there is flirting, a lot of racy thoughts, quite a bit of innuendo and alluded to acts, on the whole this is not a steamy romance with a lot of intimate action on-page. I’m okay with that, for sure, but the bond between Tom and Stanley is a double-edged sword for me. That which I find so fascinating, and keeps me intrigued on its complexity, is also where I struggle the most. I love it for all its intricacy and uniqueness. They are an enigma, so I can’t help but want to read what will happen next. I also get irritated with them for the same exact reason. Their personalities and the way they care for each other, yet each seeming to have one foot just short of stepping out of the door, is what I find so stimulating. You won’t find a lot of romantic gestures from these two, and very rarely are there moments of sweetness. They don’t quite know how to define themselves and what they are. Or rather, Stanley sort of knows what he considers them and his hopes and feelings, but is also very aware of Tom’s hang-ups and how elusive he can be when it comes to them as a couple. So, Stanley holds loosely to Tom, fully expecting and preparing himself for their inevitable end, keeping an eye open on other scenery (and boy, is there scenery for his eyes to feast on in A Prayer for the Dead). Which is kind of my issue. Even though we are several books into the series, they still aren’t a solid couple with new hurdles or obstacles. Rather, they struggle to really get over the one that has been there from the beginning, never fully committing to the idea of permanency—at least, not with each other. It drives me a bit batty, to be honest. I don’t mind the first few books in a series having this struggle, because it would be unrealistic to have a quick turn in behavior. However, this far into a series I would like to be more confident in the relationship of my MCs, and I’m not.
I have loved this entire series, though admittedly it is sometimes reminiscent of days gone by, with humor and conversations that may come off a little outdated in the interactions, not quite fitting the time and setting of the book. Even so, it is still a cleverly written mystery series with unique characters and plotlines. I am amused time and time again, piecing the clues together with Stanley and Tom, and really am hoping these two eventually get to a place where they are solid.
A Prayer for the Dead is another solid mystery which thoroughly entertained me. Despite my reservations and frustrations with Tom and Stanley’s relationship, I adore their complexity as well as the cleverness of the plot. I really hope there is another installment on its way.
You can buy A Prayer for the Dead here:
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