Tristan Everett is an introvert who mostly keeps to himself. He has a relatively quiet life as a pathologist at the Hackney Public Mortuary. Tristan loves the puzzle of being a pathologist, of solving the mystery of how someone died. And dealing with dead people is often easier for him than being with the living. Still, he agrees to go along with his co-workers one night to a bar, where he spots the most gorgeous man he has ever seen. Unfortunately, Tristan doesn’t make the impression he wants when he chokes to death on an ice cube (quite literally) and the hottie has to revive him.
Tristan is determined to put the incident behind him the next day when his latest patient is brought in. It is Miz Dusty Le Frey, a famous London drag queen, who was murdered the night before. To Tristan’s shock, however, Dusty is not just lying on the table, but also standing right next to him. It turns out something happened when Tristan died for those moments, and now he can apparently see ghosts. Or at least, this ghost. And who should walk into his examination room right then? Well, none other than the sexy life saver from the night before, Scotland Yard Inspector Danny Hayes, who has been assigned to investigate Dusty’s murder.
Tristan can barely believe this man of his dreams is actually right here in front of him. Still more surprising is the fact that Danny seems interested in him. Tristan doesn’t have a particularly great track record with men, and he doesn’t know quite what Danny sees in him, but he can’t deny the connection between them is electric. However, Tristan can’t help but be concerned. There is no way he can tell Danny that he is seeing Dusty’s ghost, which means he has to do a lot of fast talking to explain how he knows so much about her. And Dusty definitely has a lot to say, particularly about why Tristan should be climbing Danny like a tree. But Tristan is also determined to help find Dusty’s killer so he can help he finally move on like she deserves. Things heat up between Danny and Tristan, as well as with the investigation. But it is going to take both men, plus some help from Dusty and her friends, to stay one step ahead of the killer.
Dead Serious is the first book in the new Crawshanks Guide to the Recently Departed series (so named after a book Tristan finds that helps him navigate his new ghost interaction skills). I absolutely loved Vawn Cassidy’s contemporary Suddenly Beck, so when I heard about this book, I decided to pick it up. I was a little unsure what to expect from the blurb, but I am so glad I gave it a try. This was a great story and Tristan and Danny are just fabulous together.
First off, I’ll say that while this is officially a murder mystery, this is definitely not a hard core investigation or suspense story. Dusty’s death and the attempt to find her killer sort of simmers on the back burner for a lot of the book, though things do get quite exciting at the end. Most of the investigating is spent talking to one person or another, versus a lot of intense clue following. And the ultimate killer didn’t feel particularly well supported by what we learn throughout the story. But, honestly, that was fine with me. Because this story is really about the relationships, far more than about the investigation, and so sort of “suspense-light” worked perfectly for me here.
The foundation of this book is really the developing romance between Tristan and Danny, as well as the friendship between Tristan and Dusty (and to a lesser extent, the friendships between Dusty, Tristan, and Dusty’s best friend, Chan). And they are so beautifully developed and intense, I just loved it. Cassidy has a really great way of building these layered, well-drawn characters and creating some fascinating interactions between them. Danny and Tristan have a chemistry that is practically explosive. They are basically eye fucking non-stop from the moment they meet. They can hardly look away from one another and the longing and the pull between them is just palpable. When they get together, it is really explosive and the story has some nice heat. But there is also this lovely warmth between Tristan and Danny, a sense of two men who are kind and caring and not afraid to show each other how they feel. There are some beautiful scenes between them, particularly when Tristan shares with Danny some of what is happening with his ill father. And there is just such a great sense between them of being seen, of finding someone who is unexpected, but somehow perfectly right. I just adored them as a couple and they brought so much to the story.
I also loved the relationship between Tristan and Dusty. Things start out a bit crazy, as Dusty has no idea she is even dead at first. She still looks just like she did after she was killed, so she is a hot mess. She is also mad as hell that she is dead. Dusty pops in and out, chatting with Tristan and getting involved in what is going on in his life. She very much encourages him to take a chance with Danny (though she is polite enough to make herself scarce when things heat up). What is particularly nice is the way this relationship evolves. At first, neither of them knows what is going on and Tristan is kind of overwhelmed with this drag queen ghost showing up all the time. He has no idea how he can see her or what to do about it. But as Tristan gets to know Dusty, he gets to see the real person behind the drag persona. We see how angry and sad Dusty is to have lost her life so senselessly. We also see her pain at knowing she can never talk to her friends again, that she can never be part of their lives. There are some incredibly touching moments, and a few that made me tear up, as Dusty deals with the reality of her situation. It is a nice balance here between Dusty as a bit of a comedic foil and the more emotional, personal side of her and the friendship she builds with Tristan.
So this one is really a wonderful story and I am finding Cassidy to be such an engaging writer. I love the way these characters have such depth and such great interaction. I am quite excited that this is starting off a series and I really can’t wait to see where it goes from here.