- Joseph Hansen
This novel just sparkles with energy, so much so I felt quite exhausted when I’d finished it, like you do after a great run or something. You so need to try this series if you haven’t yet. As in the other novels, Dave is investigating the supposed death of someone whose life was heavily insured. This time it’s a young woman, Serenity Wendover, whose father, Charles, believes was murdered by a cult leader Azeal—the Angel Azeal to his followers. Azeal killed young women, made the other girls eat their hearts and then buried them. A final picture of him before he disappears is of him with Serenity.
Dave is now living in his renovated house in the Californian hills, alone, until Cecil, the young black reporter with whom he had a brief fling two years back (Cecil was then only 19 and illegal) turns up on his doorstep. Dave must be in his late forties (although this is never really stated) and knows he can’t afford to let anything develop between them—too much of an age gap. And, thus, for the first time we see Dave step out of the calm, rational shell of grief he’s cloaked himself in since Rob’s death: he let’s logic go and follows his heart. There’s no doubt Dave where Dave’s heart lies; the novel zings with their passion for each other.
Dave’s enemies aren’t just external in the case, however; there’s a snake in the family and his budding relationship with Cecil is almost destroyed from the most unlikely source.
This book is just a great read. It ends on the most fearful cliffhanger, which I’d deplore in any other book. Hansen can use and abuse me as much as he likes: we’ve already got the next one and have flung ourselves into with great joy.
There is just something about Dave Brandstetter. I warn you: once you’ve started getting into this series, you’ll be living it in your head, unwilling to let him remain just a character in a book. What could be the mark of a better book than that?
Okay, I called Dave Brandstetter cold a couple of books back. I was wrong. You see, Dave lived for 22 years with a wonderful man he thought he’d spend the rest of his life with. But it wasn’t to be. Rod Fleming died, horribly, from cancer, while his helpless lover stood by. After that it’s hardly surprising Dave shut down emotionally. Then he met Doug, and for a while it looked as though they might heal each other’s wounds. But that wasn’t meant to be either, though it took Dave 3 years to admit it. At the same time his relationship with Doug dragged to its inevitable end, work the only thing keeping him going, Dave met 19 year-old Cecil Harris. And Dave came alive, allowing us a glimpse at the passionate man behind the aloof and elegant exterior.
However Cecil was jailbait, and didn’t feature in Skinflick, but the story with its new beginnings was the set-up for Cecil’s return once he was 21. Or so I hoped, fervently, because I love Dave and desperately want him to be happy, as more than a crack insurance investigator. And oh boy did Dave need Cecil. He was weary last time out, so alone, and it made him screw up badly.
Hansen set Dave up as a relic of a bygone age, with his martinis and G & Ts like a gay James Bond in a world that’s moved on. Slightly detached, Dave’s sees the work he loves as a stimulating game.
Now his very young stepmother Amanda says she’s getting married again, and Dave, bless him, is a teensy bit jealous. They worked through grief over Carl Brandstetter’s death together in a beautifully developed relationship kept Dave connected in the last book.
Luckily then there’s a surprise, naked and ready, waiting for him in the loft of his eccentric home late one night when he staggers home after a hard day. Yes, Cecil is back. 2 days after his birthday he hightails it to the only place he wants to be, wrapped in Dave’s loving arms. The two of them like newlyweds, so happy even strangers comment!
This book, though it has the usual complex case requiring Dave’s special skills, is largely about their relationship, as Cecil discovers it’s not that easy to live with a workaholic. Cecil worries about losing Dave, with his habit of putting himself in danger, afraid to leave him alone for a minute. While Dave worries about the age gap, and the ache that makes him vulnerable. Dave is a one-man guy. He wants what he had with Rod. Meanwhile they’ve got a lot of catching up to do, 18 months of pent-up longing. Just thinking about it makes me tingle. And Dave feel young again.
The case has a gruesome background, Azrael, the Angel of Death, is a sex cult guru responsible for the deaths of several young women at a ranch in the desert. Serenity Westover’s father claims she was one of the victims. She’d run away from home 2 years before when Charles Westover was disbarred for bribing witnesses and jailed for a year. Banner Insurance doubts Westover’s claim and puts Dave Brandstetter on the case. But Charles Westover has disappeared and Dave must find him and check whether his claim is true. It’s a complicated case, more horrific than most, and involves Dave in a life & death struggle before the end. I loved this book, definitely one of my favourites so far in an outstanding series.
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