Death Vows is the ninth mystery novel by Richard Stevenson (pseudonym for writer Richard Lipez) featuring the private investigator Donald Strachey. Strachey lives with his long-time partner, Timothy and the books are typically set in the Albany area. This case draws Strachey across the state line into Massachusetts, where two wealthy and snobbish gay men solicit his services to investigate a young man with a sketchy past who is set to marry a friend of theirs (Massachusetts being one of the few places in the country where two men can marry). While their questions about the intended betrothed are not unfounded, he turns out to be but one of the characters who isn’t quite what he seems.
Stevenson’s Strachey novels are fast-paced and full of the twists and turns expected in this genre. There’s also a bit of humor tossed in. So far, four of the books in the series (Third Man Out; Shock to the System; On the Other Hand, Death; Ice Blues) have been dramatized for the here! television network. This book could be intended for the same treatment; whole pages often consist of little but dialog.
Stevenson’s books don’t carry the literary weight of Michael Nava’s, nor do they tackle themes as dark as those found in the writing of John Morgan Wilson. The style is closer to that found in the work of Mark Richard Zubro. Nonetheless, they are satisfying in their own right and sure to please mystery fans. Recommended for popular reading collections.
Reviewed by Michael Colby
University of California, Davis