Book Reviews

Mask for a Diva (Stan Kraychik Mystery 4) by Grant Michaels at ReQueered Tales

Genre Gay / Historical / Recent (1990s) / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Reviewed by ParisDude on 23-April-2020

Book Blurb

Stan Kraychik, Boston hair-dresser extraordinaire, has been hired as the wig master's assistant for the upcoming season of a local opera company. The Italian opera diva and aging soprano Marcella Ostinata, whose use of English is determined by her irritation level, will perform the lead. Before Stan heads to Europe to meet his lover’s parents, one of the actresses from the company kills herself by jumping into the path of a train. Befriending the benefactor, Stan moves into a house on the benefactor’s estate, where a very attractive deaf/mute boy takes a fancy to him. As the company heads unsteadily towards opening night, murder threatens the entire festival and Stan finds himself playing a crucial role in a deadly grand opera, performed without music, and with real weapons and killers.



First edition published by St. Martin's Press, January 1996.

A Lambda Literary Awards Finalist in 1995, this new edition includes a 2020 foreword by Joe Cosentino.


Book Review

Stan Kraychik strikes again. In this, the fourth opus of Grant Michaels’s murder mystery series, the sassy Boston hairstylist whom the sophisticated reader might already have met in the three previous installments, has been engaged by the newly founded New England Summer Opera Festival in Abigail-by-the-Sea. His job is to help out in the wig department for one of the upcoming operatic productions, Verdi’s “Un ballo in maschera”. Upon arriving, his identity is immediately mistaken and swept away from the train station by festival sponsor Daphne Davenport, an elderly and eccentric widow, who good-naturedly takes Stan under her wings and invites him to stay in her big mansion when informed of her mistake. Clever plot device, as now Stan will be able to witness the whole story from a front seat (and I with him).

And no time is wasted. Stan meets the main protagonists of this story on the very first evening: Bruce David, a tenor of so feeble a constitution that everyone wonders who might have thought him capable of singing a Verdi lead role; the ageing Italian soprano Madama Ostinata, whose best singing years are way behind her; her understudy, able-voiced April Kilkus; her accompanist, mousy Carolyn Boetz; the baritone Hwang Yung Cho; Sir Jonathan Byers, renowned stage director with horrible manners; Ricky Jansen, Byers’s “plus one”, a blonde and hunky but aggressive hustler cum man Friday; handsome set designer Adam Pierce; and last but not least, Maestro Toscanelli, world-famous and eons-old conductor.

The first dynamics of the evening and the next morning show the way to a promising storyline: Byers has a crush on Pierce and scowls at his rent boy Ricky’s unrequited love. The stage manager Ronda Lucca pines for Carolyn Boetz; Madama Ostinata, on top of being an insufferable diva, has the hots for Ricky; April Kilkus and Hwang Yung Cho seem to be more than friendly; and to Stan’s dismay, his superior, the real Master of Wigs Dan Carafolio, turns out to be an odious Drama Queen. There are undercurrents, ambitions to be satisfied, personal rivalries, secret backstories, twists and turns, attempted seduction (Daphne’s deaf-and-mute handyman, young and hot-as-BLEEP Maurizio tries to distract Stan from monogamy)… and dead bodies. Duh. Murder mystery and Grant Michaels, okay? Oh, and of course, the fabulously hot but straight Lieutenant Branco is once again the police detective asked to investigate.

Another fun read by what is slowly becoming one of my favourite murder mystery writers. No car chases, no gruesome death methods or tedious police work described in detail, but wit and banter and High Drama de luxe, in the classical style, what I’d call the Agatha-Christie-gone-queer style. For once, I have some minor niggles: I was overwhelmed at times because of the multitude of characters. Some of the descriptions were a tad over the top, too, and left the impression of certain passages being overlongish—they might have been tautened, which would have added some tension and suspense. But all in all, the book turned out to be an overall enjoyable read. Michaels didn’t weaken in his purposeful, engaging writing, turning out chiselled and witty dialogs, larger-than-life characters, and a well-paced plot. The dynamics between the different protagonists, the diverse psychological threads, and the whole setting in the battle trenches of opera-world egos made this a read I can wholeheartedly recommend once again.




DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by ReQueered Tales for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novel
Heat Level
Publication Date 14-April-2020
Price $5.68 ebook
Buy Link