Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Deadly Nightshade by Victor Banis

Reviewed by Robert Buck

Victor J. Banis is not only one of the more prolific writers today, he is also one of the more talented and versatile writers. So it was exciting news to me to learn awhile back that Mr. Banis was going to be doing a series of books in the mystery genre – which happens to be my favorite genre fiction.

The first book in the series, titled Deadly Nightshade, introduces us to two San Francisco policemen, Tom Danzel who is a very experienced, straight and masculine homicide detective, and Stanley Korski who is a slightly built, gay, and very much a rookie cop. The only reason Stanley is teamed up with Tom is that there is what appears to be a drag queen, killing men in San Francisco, and Stanley, being openly gay, was chosen to assist Tom in an area where Tom has no expertise.

One small caveat should be given here however. If a reader is looking for a crime driven police procedural this might not be the book the reader is seeking. While there are some very interesting twists that take place as the pair go about solving the crime, by far the strength of the book is about inter-personal relationships - not only between Tom and Stanely, but also between Stanley and his estranged father, and between other characters as well. The reader is almost certain to be drawn instantly to Stanley but it might take a little time for the reader to warm up to Tom, though it is almost certain the reader eventually will.

If a reader is looking for a well-crafted, quickly paced romantic novel by a master writer, this is definitely the right book. Among Banis’ many talents is that he is a master of witty dialogue and wicked humor and that is never more evident in his writing than in Deadly Nightshade (The Man From C.A.M.P. Notwithstanding). For those old enough to remember some of the old movies, the banter between Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn comes to mind.

I highly recommend Deadly Nightshade and have only one minor quibble with it. I would have preferred if Stanley and Tom had taken just a bit longer to reach the boiling point. However, I understand the reason for that is that this was projected to be a three book series. I surely hope, however, that reader’s can prevail on Mr. Banis to keep the Stanley and Tom series going past the initial three books as he has a winning combination here.

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