Deadly Slumber

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DeadlySlumberTitle: Deadly Slumber
Author: Victor J. Banis
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: Contemporary Murder Mystery
Length: Novel
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

THE BLURB

The House of the Dead: a mortuary whose directors are drop dead gorgeous and terminally horny—and one of them up to mischief. Stanley and Tom try to separate the naturally dead from the murdered dead and find themselves awash with coffins—until they come to the one Stanley’s name on it.

Deadly Slumber indeed

THE REVIEW

Deadly Slumber is book four of Victor Banis’ wonderful Deadly mystery series starring former San Francisco Police Inspectors — and current private investigators — Stanley Korski and Tom Danzel. As I’ve come to expect with Victor’s stories, DS is well-written and -plotted, with a mystery element that holds your interest, realistic three-dimensional characters and laugh out loud moments.  Readers should note that while this could be read as a standalone, I wouldn’t advise it here as many references are made to the previous book, Deadly Dreams, and actually much of the emotions and thoughts both protags have during this book are directly related to DD.

Set a few months after the end of DD, all is not well in Stanley and Tom paradise; although Tom has finally said the L word to Stanley, they are both understandably feeling the aftereffects of the happenings of the previous story (more on that later) and their relationship is suffering the consequences.   Stanley, in an effort to keep their detective agency going with Tom still recuperating, takes on a job with Bartholomew’s Mortuary, or the House of the Dead, to investigate some recent shenanigans — relatively harmless, yet disturbing nonetheless, pranks and such — at the fairly famous facility. Known as one of the only funeral parlors that would deal with AIDS casualties during the plague years, it has built its clientele on the gay community and the beautiful male funeral directors have a hush-hush reputation of offering every comfort possible to those in grief. Nudge nudge, wink wink. No wonder it got its other nickname of the Sweet Cream Palace! But the investigation, which Tom joins, gets darker as the recent apparent suicide of one of the family-run facility’s owners may not be a suicide, and  the  one of the other owners, the deceased’s sister, has disappeared. Are all of these events related? In order to investigate fully, Stanley stays at Bartholomew’s hoping to catch one of the many staff in the act of…something. But there is so much temptation with the stunning directors and interns making blatant offers, and Stanley and Tom’s relationship is a bit shaky, and, well, what’s a poor gay man to do? Plus, it wouldn’t be a Deadly book if Stanley the “trouble magnet” didn’t get himself in some sort of pickle.

If you have read DD then you know that there was no way Tom and Stanley could walk away from that ending unscathed, so in DS Victor has penned two sympathetic and broken heroes. Tom’s burns are healing as they should — the worst of them being on the left side of his face — and he is trying to find ways to deal with physical changes and the emotional effects that are now part of his life. Withdrawn and morose with feelings of self-consciousness, guilt, blame, anger and resentment — towards whom or what he can’t pin down — he has spent the last several weeks since his release from the hospital hiding out in their apartment. Luckily, some key words from Stanley’s friend Chris kick Tom in the arse and get him moving again in the right direction, both back to work and to Stanley. I have to say that Tom has really grown on me over the course of the series. I thought he was totally “Tom” by rebounding the way he did here. It’s like with Stanley: Tom decided he was going to be with him, so he did and that was that. Tom and his hot nuts (*g*) are less GFY here, more aware of other men looking at him and him noticing other men, too. Also, for someone who had resisted pretty strongly in earlier books, he is very self-aware and accepting of his relationship with and love for Stanley.

Stanley had done something to him, something he still couldn’t fully understand. He’d resisted for the longest time, tried to pretend it was nothing more than hot nuts. He’d given up that pretense, though. He couldn’t fool himself. He loved Stanley. He didn’t know how or why that had happened, to him of all people, but it had. It was just a fact of life; maybe the central fact of his life.

Stanley also feels…different.  Because he and Tom haven’t really talked about their issues yet, he unknowingly shares some of the same emotions as his lover, but on top of that he has killed a man and that has changed him, scarred him, though the scars don’t show like the ones Tom has. He is confused and troubled to the point of distraction at times. He mourns his loss of innocence and feels the pain of having taken a life. It seemed as if he could not look in the mirror without seeing the stain of his sin written across his face, as visible to his eyes as Tom’s scars were to him. Both of them, marked now. Stanley also has an admittedly shameful dilemma in this book which provides for some interesting and often humorous dialog — both internally and out loud with various characters — on the differences between accidental versus premeditated sex:

A vision of young Armando, bent over a casket, his trousers about his ankles, magnificently sculpted cheeks spread wide, flashed across Stanley’s mind. A lovely vision, really.

Would that be an accident? What if, say, you saw him like that, and your knees grew weak at the sight—which was, after all, entirely believable—and, say, you more or less fell against him, and before you knew it, you’d slipped inside without a conscious intention of doing so, simply the circumstances of how you had fallen…and you couldn’t just leap back in horror without giving offense, could you, not when he was being so very courteous himself? Miss Manners would almost certainly forbid it.

And suppose, moreover, that you now found yourself more or less imprisoned within some tight space, and it took several tugs and pulls and pushes to extricate yourself gracefully. He’d once or twice found himself ensheathed in places quite that tight and it had taken him the longest time, and considerable effort, before he could comfortably and safely free himself without offense to anyone.

Because of their issues, Stanley and Tom each draw within themselves, becoming somewhat distant, and their relationship suffers a bit. Though there is guilt and blame on both parts, Stanley’s guilt is multiple fold; guilt over how Tom looks knowing that he is essentially the cause, his reaction to the scars, the fact that he is a coward and can’t talk to Tom, his temptations. Because there is a lot of focus on the emotions of our two heroes, the story is very reflective and somewhat darker because of the muddled and deep thoughts going on in especially Stanley’s mind. But along with this comes some of the most poignant, direct and truthful dialog and communication between our heroes yet in the series, especially toward the end when they finally talk about what happened.

There is a theme of beauty and appearances that pervades the book. Tom’s face is one. Stanley has this immense guilt over Tom’s damage yet paradoxically, he changes his opinion to that which amazingly is shared among others as the story progresses: Tom’s scars are hot. Smokin’, in fact. They make him more savage and wild looking and it’s a turn-on. Tom had always had a sex appeal that was evident to the eyes, but now it registered on some more visceral level, seemed to go straight to the crotch like an electric spark. And Tom’s reaction to this change is hilarious at times.

Carrying the theme, the funeral directors’ beauty is discussed by almost every character. Nancy, the mortuary accountant, is fat and bordering on ugly, yet sexually attractive (even Tom would do her, but then Stanley calls him “some kind of goat, fuck anything that holds still”). A conversation with her leads to an interesting internal train of thought in Stanley’s head about female beauty, the body type of ancient gods of fertility, and judging a book by its cover. Even homely Percy Junior, the suicide/murder victim who dropped his drawers for just about everyone he met in need of comfort isn’t immune from the theme.

As with the other books, there is a large, colorful and well-developed secondary cast with some regulars — such as Chris, Stanley’s best friend, and SFPD Inspector Bryce, who has the hots for Tom — and others in the form of the mortuary staff both dead and alive. The mystery element was fairly complex, and though I had suspected some of the reveal, it did not ruin it for me at all.

The single complaint I have is that there is head hopping with the POV shifts, and not just between Stanley and Tom; we visit the minds of several other characters, which made it slightly confusing. I recall this happening somewhat in previous installments, but I don’t remember it being so obvious.

Oh, and I admit that my gag reflex could have done without these two sentences:

Sometimes Life just handed you a dog-turd taco, and gave you no choice but to eat it.

“And look at that ass. I’d eat a yard of his shit with fishhooks in it just to get to that.”

OVERALL

Victor delivers yet another winner with Deadly Slumber. Fans of the series, of the author, or mystery lovers should not miss it (just remember to read Deadly Dreams first).

25 thoughts on “Deadly Slumber

  1. Tam

    Oh, I didn’t even realize there was another book. I was laughing at that excerpt about “accidentally” having sex. That is such a guy thought process. :-) Straight or gay I think. Definitely will be checking out more of Stanley and Tom. Great review.

  2. Wave

    Hi Lynn

    Wonderful review as always Lynn. Stanley is up to some tricks, I see, with regard to the staff at the mortuary. I wonder if he did in fact get into the pants of that good looking Armando.:)

    As usual Victor has penned another great follow up in his Deadly series and I can’t wait to read it to find out what new shenanigans the boys get up to. He is such a talented writer.

  3. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Thanks Tam. I didn’t realize we were in for the treat of another /Deadly/ book either until Wave sent it to me for review. I was thrilled! And yes, that excerpt is great and just one little piece of this great book. I said that this installment is somewhat darker because of their emotional issues, but it certainly doesn’t stop Victor from liberally lacing it with lighter, funny stuff. Good balance.

  4. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Wave, you’ll just need to read the book to find out if Stanley takes a taste of the eye candy that are the directors of Bartholomew’s. ;) He’s like a kid in a candy store!
     
    And yes, Victor is so talented and this is a wonderful next issue of this series. The boys can /definitely/ get into some shenanigans, especially Stanley because like Tom says, trouble just seems to find him. I think, now this is done, that I’ll go back and re-read the others. I would have done that beforehand if I had the time.

  5. Victor J. Banis

    Thanks for a great review and for all the nice comments. Oh, that fishhook line – which, for those of you who haven’t read DS, is made by a bystander in a bar, was actually one I overheard in that very bar in San Francisco – but not something Stanley or Tom would say, I’m happy to report. And I did debate at length about the taco remark (this one is made by Tom) but Tom can be gross at times, and, at this point, he’s feeling really crappy about everything (except Stanley). These two guys are never going to have an easy time of it, but I thought the last bit, when they’re dancing, is awfully romantic. I confess, I do love them both. BTW, someone just emailed me, having read the Deadly mysteries and just finished Longhorns, and he pointed out that Buck (in Longhorns) and Stanley are much alike, which maybe is true, though Buck is a bit more macho – but of course, he’d have to be. Anyone read Longhorns? What do you think?

    Victor

    1. Ingrid

      Victor, you just reminded me in time about Longhorns.
      I have ordered it right away so I can take it with me on holiday.

      Just do like me Lynn, use bookdepository. No shipping fees :)

  6. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Victor, thanks for stopping by. The taco remark made by Tom is very totally him and I almost didn’t include it in my review (I snickered as I was gagging) but coupled with the other it was a little gross to me. Somehow I can see someone — these two bystanders — saying that in real life now that I know the context. Still grossish, but I can see it.
     
    I, too, thought the ending was very romantic, especially after the long conversation they have clearing the air, so to speak. Lovely. I also love these two and they’re becoming one of my favorite couples, issues and all. I love how Tom is with Stanley, his thought process, his actions. Like I said, he’s really grown on me as I’ve read this series. Thanks you for giving them to us.
     
    I may be one of your only fans who hasn’t read /Longhorns/ and the only reason is that it’s only available in print, which I haven’t read in at least eighteen months. I guess I’m going to have to break down and buy it, yes?

  7. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Ingrid, one of my problems is space and if I bought all of my books in print I’d be in trouble (especially since my partner has hundreds of lesbian fiction books in the house, too, as she won’t read ebooks!). Plus, I’d be pissed off if I didn’t like a book and now I have this block of paper that I won’t read again; at least with ebooks, I can shove them in a folder on my computer and forget about them. :) BUT, in saying that, I will make an exception with /Longhorns/. And maybe /Lola Dances/. And perhaps /The Man From C.A.M.P./…

    1. Ingrid

      Too bad Lynn. I have a huge storage space which is virtually empty ( my bike, suitcase and big backpack). But I rather read e-books these days.

  8. Jenre

    I’m embarrassed that I haven’t read any of Victor’s books yet. This sounds like yet another one to add to my list of books to buy. Thanks for the great review, Lynn.

  9. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Ingrid, I’d rather read ebooks, too. I’ve had my Sony eReader since May and I love it muchly. And it makes it easier when writing reviews; I can often copy and paste excerpts and such, and I can just toggle between the book and the review.

  10. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Jen, drop everything and begin with /Deadly Nightshade/. Now. This series is so worth it. And I understand the others that I’m going to get from his backlist aren’t too shabby either. ;)

  11. Wave

    Victor

     
    It’s good to see you again and to know that you like the review. Drop by next month when I interview William Maltese. I’ll send you a link because I know he’s your good friend.

     
    Lynn
    Some books are better in print. The majority of my M/M books are ebooks but others are only avilable in print and I have to bite the bullet. Not every book is being released in ebook format – too much piracy, and 82% of readers still prefer print;) We are very much in the minority.

  12. Ingrid

    I want an e-reader too!! But they are still so expensive here :(

    A minority Wave. That’s what I said earlier this evening too. Jen skyrocketed to #1 position in the reviewers list on Good reads. But not a single word in the newsletter from GR. A lot of other topics but not our dear Jen.

    1. Jenre

      Can I just point out that this was only because I loaded up all the reviews from my blog onto Goodreads, having only joined this week :)

      Next week I’ll be down at number 300 or something.

      Ingrid has a point though, the newsletter only contained items about classic or highbrow literature. It wasn’t just m/m out in the cold, but many, many other popular genres.

  13. Aunt Lynn Post author

    I got my eReader as a b-day present from my honey, but since I actually went to Borders, picked it out and paid for it (we have one account), I know how expensive they are. It’s been a debated thing for a while now as to why they cost so much. There really is no need. And don’t get me started on the cost of ebooks…

  14. Wave

    Sony is bringing out a new ereader in a couple of weeks that has a price point of $199 for the basic model an $299 for the upgraded one. There is also an ereader on sale at Samhain for $125 and a few people who have bought them seem to like them – my problem is that I don’t know how they will handle converting all of my current formats (they have their own). I’ll probably end up buying a net book which can double as a computer.

     
    Jen
    Goodreads (and others like it) is too much work for me – can’t keep up. I joined the GBLT bookshelf 6 weeks ago but haven’t had the time to fill out my “page”.:(

  15. Ingrid

    E-books are good with an exchange rate of 1,38 for 1 euro :D
    But the reader €298 which is about 395 USD not so good.

  16. nichem

    I was so excited yesterday when I realized this had come out. Great review, Aunt Lynn. Looking forward to reading it!

  17. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Wave:
     
    “Sony is bringing out a new ereader in a couple of weeks that has a price point of $199 for the basic model an $299 for the upgraded one.”
     
    I have the Sony 700, which apparently is discontinued (less than a year from being introduced?), and I just looked at the Reader Touch Edition (the 600), which is its replacement. There are very subtle differences, but it essentially what I have. And it’s $100 cheaper than than what I paid. The Sony isn’t perfect — none of them are — but I really like it.
     
    “my problem is that I don’t know how they will handle converting all of my current formats (they have their own).”
     
    I convert all my .lit books, which I know you read, to .pdf using a free converter and I have no problems. And my Sony reads .doc and some other formats, too.

  18. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting nichem. It’s a goodie, as I would have expected from Victor. Let us know how you like it when you’re done.

  19. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Wave, sorry for hijacking the review posts for the eReaders! Whoops! *sheepishgrin*
     
    Anyone else have comments on this great book?

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