Dead serious case 4: professor prometheus plume coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Danny Hayes is ready to ask his boyfriend, Tristan Everett, to marry him, but life has been such chaos for the men, he hasn’t found the right time. Even with the recent near world-ending events hopefully behind them, Tristan is working non-stop and exhausted. So when Tristan unexpectedly gets some time off over the holidays, the men decide it’s a great opportunity to get away together and have a romantic long weekend. It will also hopefully be the perfect time for Danny to propose.

What the men had hoped would be a quiet, cozy trip away from ghosts and murder turns out to be anything but, however. First, the hotel is hosting a murder mystery weekend. Then, Tristan finds himself befriended by a host of local ghosts who are haunting the hotel. But when one of the actors taking part in the murder mystery ends up dead for real, all while the group is snowed in and cut off from help, Tristan and Danny have no choice but to take charge. As the group awaits the police, they must try to figure out who is behind the murder, all while wrangling a group of unruly ghosts. And if they get lucky, Danny might just find a free minute to finally ask Tristan to be his husband.

This is the fourth installment of Vawn Cassidy’s Crawshanks Guide to the Recently Departed series. As with the rest of the books, this one has a murder mystery at its focus, this time one of the actors participating in the event at Danny and Tristan’s hotel. I think Cassidy makes a wise choice here shifting the location and the tone of the story after the big, world-almost-ended events of the previous book. This one sort of takes a step back into a lighter, more mundane sort of mystery and gives us a breather from the intensity of the last story (though it does give us the first glimpse of some serious events to come at the end of the book). The set up here is fun, as Tristan and Danny go away to escape ghosts and murder and end up right in the middle of a murder mystery weekend — then compound it by finding themselves facing a real murder mystery. The hotel is full of unusual guests and staff, as well as a somewhat wacky group of ghosts. This is less mystery in the investigative sense, as there are no real clues to follow. It is more the fun of watching the hijinks as Danny and Tristan try to figure out what happened amidst all the chaos. There is also a bit of a Clue game element, particularly with the actors’ names and the rooms in the haunted hotel, which I found fun.

While the murder is the focus of the blurb and a major plot event, the story actually spends significant time on other events for the men, including Christmas with their found family, time with Tristan’s father, and a side trip to see Danny’s estranged family. The situation with Tristan’s father’s health is getting increasingly serious and we see both Tristan and Danny spending time with Martin over the holiday. It is clear that Martin doesn’t have much time left and we see Tristan’s worry, as well as his guilt about going out of town and taking time for himself. I think this part of the storyline really showcases the sensitivity and caring both Tristan and Danny have, as well as give some poignancy and balance to the lighter part of the book. We also see Danny have an interaction with his estranged family, as he hasn’t seen or spoken to any of them since he came to London after they reacted so badly to him coming out. I don’t want to go into too much detail on this so readers can see how it all plays out, but I enjoyed getting some focus on Danny’s personal side, which we don’t always see as much in the books.

I will say that the pacing here felt a little off, as the actual trip and mystery happens relatively late in the book. They don’t even get to the hotel until about 40% of the way into the story and it is almost 3/4 of the way through the book before the mystery really kicks in. Maybe it’s because the blurb really only talks about the mystery side of things, but it made the case feel a little more rushed and, as I said, less of an investigation versus just watching the hijinks unfurl.

I continue to enjoy the found family aspect of this series and we see Danny and Tristan celebrating Christmas with their gang early in the book. In terms of timeline, this takes place after the side story, The Grim Adventures of Death and Chan, though key things are recapped here for those who haven’t read it. We spend most of the story focused on Danny and Tristan away from the group, however. I continue to really love them as a couple and the devotion they have to one another really shines through. Here we see again how much they support and rely on each other, and get a nice romantic ending for them.

As I mentioned, this story sets things up for the next book and it looks like we will be dealing with another big, intense situation. So this story is nicely positioned to give us a more low-key, light mystery and a chance see Danny and Tristan further develop their relationship.

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