Paul Monroe Mystery: Diagnosis: Death – A.P. Eisen
When a body is found in the park, Paul Monroe knows two things: this isn’t a simple mugging, and the weekend he has planned with his boyfriend is officially over before it begins. With no murder weapon but a slew of suspects at the ready, Paul and his partner, Rob, begin the tedious task of piecing together the few clues they have.
Happier than he’s ever been, Cliff knows there’s more to Paul than the tough exterior the man shows to the world, but Cliff is determined to take things slow. An unexpected phone call forces him to revisit the pain of his past, and now he needs Paul more than ever, but he’s hesitant to ask, unwilling to pressure Paul into a decision he might not be ready to make.
Paul’s investigation means more long nights away from Cliff, who is grappling with his unsettling news. Not being able to support Cliff isn’t sitting right with Paul, and for the first time his personal life is as important as his job. Knowing he has Paul to lean on gives Cliff the courage to speak and to heal old wounds as they navigate the minefield of building a relationship. Meanwhile, a killer walks the streets of Thornwood Park, and Paul won’t be satisfied until they are caught and justice served.
I really liked A.P. Eisen’s debut novel, Couldn’t Cheat Death, the first book of the Paul Monroe Mystery. I mentioned that the storytelling had a straightforwardness that appealed to me. Diagnosis: Death is angstier but had the same feel. Although this time, the straightforward quality of the writing had a tendency to feel a bit bland at some points. This is minor and didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the novel.
The book is a murder mystery/police procedural with a nice little romantic subplot. Family troubles, past and present, make themselves known all around. A long-suffering wife, an obsessed maid and a drug-addicted son were all involved in the murder. Cliff’s parents reached out to him 15 years after he was thrown out of the house, with the news that his mother is ill. Paul is slowing opening up and coming out to Cliff’s friends and his dad. Even Rob, Paul’s partner, is dealing with his wife’s difficult pregnancy.
There were many recurring characters. The victim here was the doctor who had an affair with the victim from the first book. The doc, who is a closeted gay or bi, slept with his personal trainer in the same gym, following his MO from the first book. The personal trainer was a douche who had no qualms blackmailing the doc, making him the most likely suspect.
The mystery was well-written. The procedural was the same as the first book, not so hardcore on the procedures but still investigative enough to satisfy any fan’s yen for the genre. About midway through the story, the perp became obvious but I still enjoyed reading how Paul and Rob figured it out.
I also liked that this series is not a partner-to-lovers trope. All too often, MM police procedurals tend to fall in that category so I appreciated Paul and Rob’s partnership+friendship.
On a more personal note, Cliff and Paul navigates their three-month old relationship. I really liked how the author handled this part, letting the conflict come from the outside rather than between the two men. Cliff and Paul are probably the most level-headed bookish couple I’ve come across with. For somebody who has never been in a relationship, Paul pretty much aced it as a boyfriend. And no matter how much shit his well-meaning friends tried to stir, i.e. warnings about Cliff letting himself be the dirty secret once again, Cliff didn’t let it poison his view that Paul will come out when he’s ready.
Diagnosis: Death is a good continuation to the series. It picked up where the first book left off and made good use of the old characters and their habits. There’s great character and relationship development and I hope the author would continue their progress without resorting to the usual Big Fight. So far this series delivered and I’m looking forward to the next case!
The books are best read in order. Review of book one, Couldn’t Cheat Death here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits