Monday once again. After my complaint about losing my reading mojo, I still having something for SBD.
Warning: spoilers for the series follow. Just so you know.
I’m not sure how I came to Victor J. Banis’s Deadly series. Maybe via an “If you like” feature, based on Josh Lanyon’s mysteries or First You Fall? In any case, this series is clearly gay mystery, as opposed to m/m romantic suspense: the emphasis is on the whodunit, and the developing relationship between Tom Danzel and Stanley Korski, while important, is not necessarily the focus of the plot.
The first book read quickly, so I picked up the second. And when I was browsing over the weekend, I saw that a third mystery was recently released, so I downloaded a copy. While I enjoyed the books as I read, I felt ambivalent about them but couldn’t really figure out why. Maybe my perspective as a romance reader is the problem, but I find the huge leaps in the relationship between Tom and Stanley to be a little . . . hard to believe and poorly developed. In Deadly Nightshade, Stanley (very out gay man) decides he is in love with Tom (heretofore only heterosexual and homophobic guy); why, other than the fact that Tom is hot and seemingly unavailable, being straight? It isn’t really clear. In the second book, Deadly Wrong, there is a bit more growth, emotionally speaking, but that is primarily on Tom’s part. In the third book, Deadly Dreams, well, Tom has pushed Stanley into living together and opening a business together, retiring from the police force. That last just really didn’t seem consistent with the slow, methodical character that had been drawn for Tom. But okay, fine, it’s your series Mr. Banis, and maybe having the two be PIs together will work better than having Tom as a homicide inspector for SFPD. [Stanley as a homicide inspector never really worked; I wasn’t sure why he went to the police academy, since he was clearly not interested in the more pedestrian parts of being a cop. And was afraid of his gun.]
As I finished the third book, I had an epiphany. Or two, really. The first: Stanley is TSTL in the way that the dumb chick in horror movies is TSTL. He is so focused on what he wants and so sure that someone (well, Tom) will rescue him, that he does things that he KNOWS are dangerous, assuming that Tom will save him. And Tom does, but only at monumental cost to himself. Even outside of dangerous situations, Stanley is All Me, All The Time, which is problematic when he is the primary narrator, since it makes him not very sympathetic at times. Tom also narrates; he comes across as a profoundly unaware man, uncomplicated, and very good at being a cop. He’s a bit of an enigma so far, other than the “gay for you” and protective urge toward Stanley.
Second epiphany: there are absolutely no positive female roles in any of the three books. There is a single not-bad female character, a lesbian who is kind in a distant sort of way. But otherwise, the women are:
· Bitter, greedy, vicious, violent control freak
· Drug dealer who abandon babies
· Mothers who fail to love their children, thus becoming the root of all problems for that child in their adult lives
· Selfish, distant, bitchy homophobes
· Crazed killers
· Sex toys for other characters
While I don’t expect female characters to play huge roles in mysteries in which the protagonists are gay men, it’s a little disturbing to realize that there is not a single positive female character in any of the three books. What’s up with that? Beyond feeling vaguely misogynistic, it’s disappointing in terms of character development, because none of these female characters feel as well-drawn as the male characters, but instead come across as unbalanced, with little or no humanity, as a bit cartoonish.
I haven’t decided if I’ll check out Banis’s other work. Maybe I’ll check out the next book to see what’s next for Tom. Or maybe not. There are a lot of books TBR.
Afterthought: I love that the butch name Stanley Korski belongs to the not-butch character. When I read the name, I think of Stanley Kowalski, and Marlon Brando. I’m thinking this is an tweak or poke from the author on stereotypes of masculinity and expectations. Or maybe I’m reading too much into the name selection. *shrug*
ETA: Also, there is no such historical personage as Sir Thomas Aquinas. There’s Saint Thomas Aquinas. And there is Sir Thomas More, also Saint Thomas More. Both canonized but with vastly different histories. Which did Banis mean to refer to?