Dino is caught off guard when his ex shows up out of the blue asking for help. His current lover, Seth, is pushing him to find dirt on his sister’s boyfriend. Juggling between two cases – and his boyfriend and ex – isn’t easy, but what choice does he have?
Working with his ex takes Dino on a trip down memory lane, raising a few doubts and stirring up Seth’s jealousy. Now he must save his ex’s restaurant and his relationship with Seth before it’s too late.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Finally! I totally adored the first book of the series (Like Coffee and Doughnuts) and have eagerly awaited the sequel. Like Pizza and Beer reads very similar to the first book with good characters, a decent mystery, and a solid step by step resolution that’s interesting but without the crazy heroics that put mysteries over the top into ridiculous. There’s a few bumps in the road here but minor and those that liked the first book of the series will definitely be on board for the second. You should read the books in order though to properly follow Dino and Seth’s relationship but you can pick this up as a stand alone pretty easily too.
The sequel starts as per usual with a new case. This time Dino’s ex, Gigi, needs help to save her restaurant. Now it’s a bit of a stretch to believe this since Dino and Gigi haven’t spoken in ten years. Gigi thinks someone is sabotaging her restaurant and maybe even following her so she wants a private investigator to look into it. This makes sense but why choose an ex-boyfriend you haven’t seen or spoken to in a decade? Well that I don’t buy but getting over that, the mystery of what’s going on in Gigi’s restaurant runs parallel to Dino trying to help out Seth’s sister Molly. Molly has a sleazy boyfriend and Seth is worried something more sinister is going on.
The two cases (seemingly pro-bono for Dino) are the core of the story. Both are interesting in their own way and could have been their own books but the inclusion of both keeps the action moving smoothly and evenly. Since Dino is an old style PI and the book doesn’t go for flashy car chases and gun fights, the day to day of record checking, stake outs, and mundane details could get boring. The solid writing, clever dialogue, and good characters keep this from every happening but the use of two simultaneous cases helps cover any lull in the action. This also keeps Seth in and out of scenes, which is a very good thing. Both mysteries are not so much who dun it as following the clues to see how the resolution comes about in a very classic mystery way.
Equally important to the story though is some underlying tension between Seth and Dino. Dino’s been bisexual all his life but he’s never been with another guy before Seth so Dino still has some weirdness about coming out of the closet, which of course annoys the outgoing Seth. This storyline is very good and adds an emotional element to the characters and their relationship. The men come across as pretty typical guys in many ways. They have easy sex, drink beer, eat pizza, hang out or not but every so often they have some tension and fights.
Dino gets anxious after the fights, wanting to make up right away but his part in the tension is less defined. He’s assumes that being gay naturally means in the closet but only around people he knows. Dino is fine with sex on a dark beach or being seen together. Yet when it’s someone he knows, he’s careful to keep a distance and never acknowledge his relationship to Seth. Part of this is Dino’s natural private nature and the other is clearly paranoia. So Dino seems to ping back and forth being comfortable and not comfortable, which makes the outgoing and wired Seth equally back and forth. Eventually they find a compromise that feels honest and natural to their relationship. Their chemistry is undeniable and is constantly simmering in the background. All it takes is a look and the sensuality between the two comes alive.
Like Pizza and Beer is a good sequel with two interesting cases and a progression to Dino and Seth’s relationship. One of the best things is the classic mystery feel to the writing that instantly makes you feel like this is a modern take on noir. There are numerous touches from the character of Dino to the witty dialogue and great banter, even the old women around Dino that bring to life the feel and look of noir mysteries. Throw in modern details and good dynamic between the lead characters and once again, Parker has delivered a good story. I easily recommend it.
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