Researched to Death is Perry’s fourth volume in her Jamie Brodie Mysteries, following the first book Cited to Death, and the subsequent books Hoarded to Death, and Burdened to Death. The series focuses on intrepid and sensible UCLA reference librarian Jamie Brodie, and his boyfriend Pete, a former cop and currently a psychology professor, and their knack for falling into murder mysteries.
The Jamie Brodie Mysteries fits the “gay amateur sleuth” category very well, and rings a tone similar to Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series and J. L. Merrow’s Pressure Head, where the non-law enforcement hero finds himself tracking a case and using his non-professional skills to find answers (and sometimes get into trouble.)
Perry’s writing doesn’t have the polish and ease of Lanyon or the distinct narrative voice like Merrow, but over the series, I’ve grown very comfortable with her straight-forward, simplistic style for Jamie’s first person POV. I still find some of his observations very list-like, but I think he’s so refreshingly realistic and “normal” that I can’t help myself from liking him and Pete and wanting to follow them along as they discover clues or elude danger.
This is probably my favorite thing about the series. Jamie is extremely RATIONAL and makes what I can only describe as “good decisions” in a mystery novel. (A good comparison is the trailer for the fake movie Hell No: The Sensible Horror Movie.) I just love watching Jamie deal with issues because for the most part, he reacts like what I would think most people would if facing a similar situation.
To illustrate, let’s compare Jamie to his cliché amateur sleuth counterpart. I’ll call this guy Jimbo. There’s been a murder, and Jamie and Jimbo have been roped into the case due to their connections to the victim.
1) You’ve gotten a shady note to meet a stranger at midnight in a dark and lonesome park.
Jamie: I better tell people about this note. Maybe get the police involved. I certainly won’t go alone to meet this turkey.
Jimbo: Oh, a note! I should go right away without talking to anyone! Oops, I left my phone at the office. Oh, well! Why would I need that??
2) It looks like your door is ajar, and you know you didn’t leave it unlocked. You open the door to find the living room a mess, and the house in darkness.
Jamie: (backs away from the door, turns around, goes back to his car while pulling out his phone.) “Hello? Yes, I’d like to report a break-in…”
Jimbo: “Hello? Is anyone here? Helloooooo?” (walks inside, closes door.) “Oh, the lights aren’t working. Maybe the kitchen ones will work. Gosh, it sure is dark in here!”
3) The person you suspect to be a murderer is wandering around outside with a knife.
Jamie: “I’ve called the police. I better stay in the car until they get here.” (Locks doors.)
Jimbo: “Oh, there’s that guy! I think he did it!” (gets out of the car) “Maybe I’ll just walk over there and ask him what he’s doing. Oh, look the cops are here! I should move within their sight, right between them and the culprit…”
It sounds like it might be boring, having someone make good decisions as they move along with the mystery, but I mostly just find it super refreshing and I respect all the characters involved, because for the most part, they make sound choices.
Not that Jamie’s perfect, not at all. He and Pete hit a big bump in this volume when Pete’s oily ex Luke pops into the picture and tries to scheme them apart. Jamie makes some bad, knee-jerk decisions, but then you see Pete’s sensible side too, even in the face of adversity and anger, and I can’t help but root for them as they try to work through their respective issues to make things work out.
And that’s another thing that I like about this volume and the series as a whole. Perry balances character progression as well as tidy installment endings, so as a reader, I don’t have to be too worried about how things will end up, while also watching characters truly progress and change, so the Jamie and Pete at the end of vol. 1 Cited to Death are not the same as the Jamie and Pete at the end of the fourth volume. They’re a year older, a little more burdened with their respective truths, and also more understanding about how valuable their relationship is, and why it’s worth fighting for.
As someone who gets very stressed out about endings (and I won’t lie, I peeked at the end of this book once the big bump came in), I really appreciate that Perry gives non-cliffhanger endings while also providing real development. The series is not like a comic strip or a sitcom where nothing changes and everything returns to status quo at the end.
The mystery in this volume, about a missing book and some murders, was fun—not too complicated. The villain is mostly a cypher and separate from the story. This volume had slightly more tension than the last two, although not too much, and that’s probably one of my biggest hopes for future volumes is to have some more nail-biting moments. (And how do we include more nail-biting tension while also having rational, sensible characters? I guess that’s the challenge, balancing non-TSTL heroes while including conflict.)
I don’t think it’s a perfect series, but it’s one that I’ve grown to really enjoy, and it’s mostly because of the very likeable and appealing characters, their progression over the books, and Perry’s ability to maintain character consistency, even as she pushes them to evolve. It’s a nice change of pace, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how things go from here.
If you’re interested in checking things out, I strongly recommend starting from the beginning with Cited to Death. A) You’ll enjoy the character progression from the beginning and B) you can see if Perry’s style meshes with you.
I recommend this series for those who like gay mysteries, especially the more amateur, cozy kind, and also for those who don’t demand a high heat rating since all intimacy in the series is off-page. (Personally, I haven’t missed the sexy times here.) I’m definitely on board for volume 5 whenever it comes out. (And from Perry’s notes on her blog, it looks like there are quite a few books coming. It’s kind of like a fun TV show.)