Title : Relief Valve
Author : J.L. Merrow
Publisher : Samhain Publishing (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary
Length : 357 pages (e-book)
Published : March 25, 2014
Rating : ★★★★
If you dig up the past, be prepared to get dirty.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since plumber Tom Paretski and P.I. Phil Morrison became connected at the heart, if not always at Tom’s dodgy hip. Neither of their families has been shy about voicing their disapproval, which hasn’t helped Tom’s uneasy relationship with his prickly older sister, Cherry.
But when Cherry is poisoned at her own engagement party, the horror of her near death has Tom’s head spinning with possible culprits. Is it her fiancé Gregory, a cathedral canon with an unfortunate manner and an alarming taste for taxidermy? Someone from her old writers’ circle, which she left after a row? Or could the attack be connected to her work as a barrister?
Phil is just as desperate to solve the case before someone ends up dead—and he fears it could be Tom. At least one of their suspects has a dark secret to hide, which makes Tom’s sixth sense for finding things like a target painted on his back…
Product Warnings: Contains a strong, silent, macho PI; a cheeky, chirpy, cat-owning plumber; and a gag gift from beyond the grave that’ll put the cat firmly among the pigeons.
Tom Paretski has been dating Phil Morrison for a while now. Tom wouldn’t exactly label them as a stable couple. Tom doesn’t really know if he’d label them as anything, but they’re certainly dating and having a fun time. The cats like Phil, so that’s good. When Tom’s sister, Cherry, calls to tell Tom a kindly neighbor from his childhood had passed away and left him something in her will Tom found himself turning to Phil even though it was all a bit awkward. In addition to being left something Cherry tells Tom she is engaged to be married and wants Tom to meet her new beau, Gregory. To say the very least Gregory is eccentric, but Cherry seems to love him and they have an engagement party. At the party Cherry collapses and has to be rushed to the hospital. Naturally, Tom asks Phil to investigate.
It seems Cherry and Gregory are involved in a local writers group. The group is rather pretentious. Tom does his best to involve himself in the group to investigate them. His powers of finding hidden things don’t really turn up much with the people he’s able to talk with. Tom does find his relationship with Phil moving forward. He also finds more and more common ground with his sister who has to stay with him as another attempt on her life is made. Tom also finds himself meeting one of Phil’s brothers. It’s a glaring reminder of who Phil was and how far he’s grown. Neither Phil nor Tom have any solid leads on who may be trying to kill Cherry and it may not only be Cherry who is in danger. Amidst everyone being a suspect, Tom still has to go and find an object he was bequeathed by his childhood neighbor. After a final, drippy attempt on Cherry’s life, Tom finds something he didn’t expect.
There are so many things I love about this series. Tom and Phil’s comfortable and sometimes silly banter, church life and gay life coexisting without rancor, the illusion Tom and Phil are opposites when in fact they’re not, and Tom’s unreliability as the sole narrator of his tale. I love finding out the story at Tom’s pace, I love that Phil’s late partner Mark is such a mysterious figure, and I love that we’re subjected to the world through Tom’s quirky perspective. I don’t love that Tom is aware he is charming but seemingly unaware people actually find him charming. Tom seems to have no clue how Phil feels toward him and invariably leaps to what I as the reader feel is the wrong conclusion. It feels to me a bit like character stupidity for the sake of the plot.
So much needs to happen in subsequent books. Tom and Phil are firmly a couple by the end of “Relief Valve” but they could be easy to tear apart. There has been no formal meeting of the parents on either side. Presumably some of that will happen at Cherry’s wedding if not sooner. Tom also has to deal with the big huge bombshell he found at the end of the book. That has significant explosive potential for the Paretski clan as a whole. Between Tom and Phil specifically is the Mysterious Mark. As friends get married and relatives get married Tom is bound to have some questions about Phil’s late domestic partner. I can hardly wait to see how it all goes down.
Rated 4 stars by Faye