Title: The Saint of San Francisco
Author: Jerry Sacher
Cover artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: The Saint of San Francisco
Length: Novel/250 PDF pages
Genre: M/M romance/Mystery/Suspense
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: Schizophrenic narrative style, unlikable protagonists with unfathomable motivations, thin and unbelievable plot made this book unsatisfying.
Blurb: After finding himself still depressingly single on his thirty-second birthday, Jeremy Haniver accepts an invitation to move to San Francisco. Though he falls in love with the Castro and the city, it’s not enough to cure him of his loneliness or the depression that dogs him. He almost throws his life away, but fate intervenes when Jeremy meets Mark Caparelli.
Mark is a former Marine and a detective with the San Francisco PD. Unfortunately, he’s also seeing someone else—at first. Life finally seems to be going Jeremy’s way, until a homicide breaks up his first date with Mark. Jeremy desperately wants to get over his past and start a new life with Mark, but they have to catch the killer first… before he catches them.
There were several reasons I wanted to read this book: it was written by a new author, I liked the blurb, it was marketed as mystery/suspense which is one of my favorite genres and the shallow part of me really, really liked the cover. Unfortunately, the book was unsatisfactory on many levels, so I’ll try to highlight the most important ones.
The first problem for me was the narrative style. The point of view alternates between first person POV of Jeremy and multiple third person POVs, often from one paragraph to the next and even from one sentence to the next. The third person POV isn’t consistent either: sometimes it’s the close third person POV (like in the case of Mark), sometimes it’s slipping into the third person omniscient POV. It was quite jarring. Additionally, Jeremy often talks directly to the reader, thus breaking the illusion. As a result, it was impossible for me to immerse myself in the story or connect to the characters. It felt like watching a movie completely told in voiceover or shot from bird’s eye view.
There was not a single likable or intelligent character in this book. In and of itself, this is not really a flaw. There are many great unlikable characters in the literature. But, the motivations of these particular characters are vague at best, behavior erratic and illogical, they often contradict themselves within the same paragraph. Jeremy in particular is hard to like and understand. At the beginning of the story, he tries to kill himself by jumping off the bridge. He fails, but it is never clear why he does it and it is never addressed during the novel. Was it because he was lonely? Because he didn’t find the right man? Because he wasn’t allowed to become a monk since he was gay? All of the above? Mark is aware of his suicide attempt, yet he never talks to Jeremy about it. Jeremy bemoans the fact that he can’t find the right man, but it is him who leaves most the men because they bore him. He left one of his boyfriends because he was wearing flip-flops. Can you say shallow? This is one stellar example of Jeremy:
“Maybe not, but he’s a typical man. They all bore me after a while.”
“Bore you?” Patrick raised his eyebrows.
“Yes, they all bore me immensely after a while. They talk a lot about how much you mean to them, but under the handsome face, the muscles, and the big dick, they fail to hold my interest very long. European men are the worst; they think that they dress well and are the greatest lovers, but there’s no depth, only a thin veneer.”
Jeremy’s reasons for investigating Tom’s murder aren’t clear or convincing. He says several times that he will abandon the investigation and then changes his mind almost immediately. He hides things that need to be shared with the police. The final straw was when Mark did something which would be exceptionally hurtful to anyone else. Jeremy forgives him at once (and I mean at once, after maybe 5 pages in 250 page novel), but not before he blackmails him into helping him with the investigation. He is disrespectful to Mark and often rude to his friends and people who try to help him. Additionally, his religiousness seemed artificial, something tacked on to his character.
Mark may not be as unlikable as Jeremy, in spite of his one bad decision; however, he is so bad at his job that you have to wonder how he became the cop in the first place, let alone a detective. He zeroes in on the clue which can be explained in dozens of different ways, yet misses the most obvious lines of investigation. I, personally, didn’t understand what he saw in Jeremy and vice versa. Still, I think the bad guy takes the cake in the stupid department. All he had to do was to sit tight and the chances are he would have never been caught, especially considering who was investigating the case. But, not only he attracts unnecessary attention to himself, he leads Jeremy to the murder weapon the cops have missed. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. All of the main characters seem immature, although they are in their early or mid thirties.
Finally, there are problems with the plot itself. I often hear people saying that some story wasn’t realistic. The thing with fiction of any kind is that it doesn’t need to be realistic – it needs to be believable. While we are reading a book or watch a movie, we need to believe that the events could play out the way they did. To say that this particular plot stretched believability is an understatement. There are so many examples that I had to limit myself, otherwise the review will be way too long.
Let’s start with the fact that Mark takes Jeremy to the crime scene, to the very room someone was killed in, and nobody bats an eye. Why would they when there’s a reporter already on the scene. The case is dropped by the police because the victim’s parents insisted on it. I can’t imagine the police giving up the case on civilians’ wishes no matter who they are. Well, maybe the President. The cops don’t reopen the case even when one of the witnesses is killed as well. In fact, the cops come across as so grossly incompetent (Mark included) that comparison to the Keystone Kops isn’t a terrible exaggeration. Jeremy spends a lot of time in Mark’s office. They hug and kiss where everyone can see them. I know San Francisco is a liberal city, but I didn’t think the rules of workplace behavior were different as well. Jeremy doesn’t really investigate – he is more attracting attention to himself until the murderer decides to take him out. He does not really solve the case, the murderer practically reveals himself. The connections between the characters and their decisions are convoluted or rely on coincidences. We are told about characters’ past and history, given descriptions of their personalities, but we are shown very little. Finally, the dialogue is stilted, often running in circles.
I always hate giving the bad review, especially when it comes to a new author. I know how much effort it takes to write a book and publish it. In the end, it’s a collective effort and the responsibility for the success or lack thereof is collective too. I was thinking about this while I was reading this book. The author has a decent writing style (if you can forget what is written) and there is a seed of decent story in this book. If someone cut maybe 100 pages out of the book (the unnecessary repetitions, side stories, etc.) and vigorously edited the rest, it might have been even more than decent. As it is, go into this book with realistic expectations. Who knows, maybe your experience will be different. After all, this is only my opinion.