Michael Craft has been…well…crafting crime novels for over twenty years. He is justifiably considered a legend in the LGBTQ+ mystery arena, with his Mark Manning Mysteries often referenced as prior generations gateway into LGBTQ+ crime…reading. Last year he launched a new series—the Dante and Jazz Mysteries—and the series debut, Desert Getaway, received a Lilian Jackson Braun Memorial Award nomination at the 2023 Edgar Awards. Now, the second novel in that series—Desert Deadline—is available to the delight of Michael Craft’s many existing fans and as irresistible temptation to many future, would be, fans.

Dante O’Donnell is a white, gay man working as the concierge at a luxury vacation rental company based in Palm Springs, California. Jazz Friendly is his polar opposite—Black, straight and working as a private investigator. Together these two have formed a bond—outlined in the first novel—and have developed into quite the crime-solving pair.

In Desert Deadline, Dante rents a luxurious desert villa to Maude Movay, a best-selling romance writer—one who is typically very reclusive—in need of a sanctuary in which to complete work on her highly-anticipated and very late new book. When Maude ends up dead, Dante and Jazz are once again on the hunt for a murderer.

The interplay between Dante and Jazz as they proceed with another criminal investigation is delightful to watch. Each of these characters know their skills and how to best put them to use. When the stakes get even higher—and closer to home—the plot kicks into overdrive and readers will race to the end. Michael Craft knows how to introduce readers to his large cast of characters in a way that feels natural and as the investigation casts a wider net, readers get to explore both in and around Palm Springs itself.

With the Dante and Jazz mysteries, Michael Craft continues his tradition of building a community around his characters, so that each book feels like returning home to a warm embrace. Not unlike what Louise Penny has accomplished with Three Pines, these novels celebrate the uniqueness of Palm Springs and its citizens, enticing readers to hop on the next flight out for a long overdue visit.

There are many things to love about Desert Deadline: the tightly-constructed crime plot, the vividly-depicted setting, and the fully-realized characters, but it is the skilled interplay between all these elements that truly elevates this novel. With hypnotic prose and deft turns-of-phrase, Michael Craft celebrates the camaraderie between misfits (friends and otherwise) situated in an environment where a luscious façade often hides more ugly truths. Murder is serious business, but the tone and delivery can be quainter and cozier without losing any impact. Humor and smiles dominate, but don’t let that lull you in too much; Desert Deadline is also a suspense-filled read.

With any luck, readers will be returning to Michael Craft’s desert oasis soon, as there must be many more adventures for Dante, Jazz, and their crazy band of cohorts on the horizon. And trust me, that is no desert mirage.

BUY LINKS: Desert Deadline by Michael Craft

Disclaimer: An print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.