Note: The author kindly offered an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a review. You can purchase this release starting October 14, 2021.
Another month has passed since Damiskos came to visit his lover Varazda in Saffron Alley. He really doesn't want to go home to Pheme, but knows he will need to at some point, at least to move out of his lodgings and collect his horse. It's just that he isn't sure if Varazda will want him to come back to stay. Damiskos' hand is forced when a letter arrives from his parents demanding his return as soon as possible, for ‘reasons’. After being assured that Varazda does indeed want him to return to stay, Damiskos sails off to Pheme. What he finds there is not at all what he expected, and plunges our hero into another mystery.
While each of them is a mostly self-contained mystery, the books of this series definitely need to be read in order to know who the characters are. This third book, in fact, comes full circle back to the characters and events of the first story, Sword Dance, so you'll have to have read that to have an idea of who's who in this volume.
We get pieces of this story from each of the men's point of view, as Damiskos struggles with his family, and Varazda investigates the death of one of their adversaries from the first book. While the previous volume introduced us to Varazda's found-family, in this installment we meet Damiskos' parents and half brother, as well as an old “flame” from his past. It's quite a contrast to the likeable group of people that Varazda has gathered around him.
While it is interesting to learn about Damiskos' family, I was rather hoping to learn more about Varazda's in this book. Given the way this story comes full circle back to the events of the first book, it feels a bit like this is the end of the series. Still, as this has turned into a sort of “buddy mystery” series, there's every chance that the pair will return to be faced with another crime to solve.
“Strong Wine” is available from Amazon.