Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Wedding to Die For - A Brandt and Donnelly Caper, Case File Number Three

Officers Brandt and Donnelly return for their third "caper," and this time, their success in quelling the bigotry in Woodley has opened the door for the two police officers to head up a new task force that will help see to it that the state's new gay marriage law (this book was published back in 2014) is adhered to by the numerous hometown businesses who don't want to recognize and honor it.  And, as fate would have it, their very first case involves a Romeo and Juliet scenario - albeit with a gay twist!

A Wedding to Die For is definitely the best of the Brandt/Donnelly novels so far, at least when it comes to the mystery plot.  A prominent gay couple (one a newscaster, one an attorney) are planning their wedding - but when they are turned away by the baker and the florist they want for their wedding, they fight back.  Enter Brandt and Donnelly.  The two police officers, as a part of their new duties on the task force, pay a visit to the florist, and then the baker, to convince them to revisit their discriminatory actions against the gay couple.  The florist and the baker are both resistant, but ultimately they give in (due to the number of order cancellations based on the public outrage after the couple went public with the issue), allowing their sons to take over the jobs for the wedding.  Their sons, who, coincidentally enough, are both gay.  And, who coincidentally enough, happen to not only know each other, but share a secret from their past that turns out to have some very deadly consequences in the present.

Author Xavier Mayne provides a well-written tale of revenge, star-crossed love, and flat-out hate-filled bigotry.  Someone wants to turn the wedding into a disaster.  And a disaster it becomes when nearly everyone at the reception becomes violently ill, forcing Brandt and Donnelly to act quickly and get them the medical attention they need.  They immediately begin an investigation into the source of the mass-poison, and then into the culprit behind it.  When one of the two grooms winds up dead on his honeymoon, it becomes a murder investigation.

Was it the baker or the florist determined to seek revenge on having been forced to offer their services to the gay couple?  Or was it one of their sons, who may not be everything he's pretending to be?  Or was it someone completely off the radar, with intentions Brandt and Donnelly can't even begin to understand?  And what of Justin and Roman, the baker's and florist's sons?  Is their romance doomed before it even begins?

Mayne has got a great hold on the characters, and even the ever-flamboyant Bryce makes a few brief appearances that are so over-the-top, yet everyone knows someone just like him.  The growing rapport between Brandt and Donnelly, now that they are engaged (that happened at the end of the second book - where have you been?), flows naturally, and it's nice to see them getting to become more comfortable with each other and with themselves, particularly as they begin planning their own wedding.

My only problem with this book (and the previous two) are the gratuitous, overly-explicit sexual encounters - between Brandt and Donnelly and between Justin and Roman.  I realize that there is a market for erotica, and I'm by no means a prude.  But (and this is just for me!), when I'm reading a mystery, particularly a really good mystery like this one, explicit sex scenes such as the ones here pull me out of the story.  To me, those scenes have absolutely no bearing on the mystery, and, in fact, the romance between the couples would have been more intimate had the explicit nature of those scenes been toned down.

Not sure that I will be picking up any further books in this series, regardless of how much I enjoy the mystery part and I like the characters.  Guess we will just have to see what the future holds...

RATING:  6 stacks of blueberry pancakes with a side of bacon out of 10 for taking a Shakespearean tragedy and turning it into a good little mystery.

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