Reviewed by Dan
TITLE: Of Paradise & Purgatory
SERIES: Santo Domingo Stories #1
AUTHOR: Stephen del Mar
PUBLISHER: LMW Books
LENGTH: 353 Pages
RELEASE DATE: August 24, 2016
Going home can be hell, even if it’s paradise.
Victor Cruz returns to the Arizona town where he grew up to bury his estranged father, and dispose of the family’s ancestral home. The plan: get in and get out. A stop at Santo Domingo’s Lady of Guadalupe chapel compels him to offer up a simple prayer, “May I do what needs to be done,” and starts a landslide of events-old friends, old loves, and who is in collusion with the murderous Cumero Cartel? “Of Paradise and Purgatory” is a contemporary tale with a seasoning of faith & magical realism.
Of Paradise & Purgatory is the tale of one man’s journey home. Victor Cruz is a resident of Bennett Bay, Florida, the scene of Mr. del Mar’s Bennett Bay series. He has come home to Santo Domingo to bury his father. The only problem? He hated the man for what he did to Victor’s mother and Victor. But everyone else in town has his father on a pedestal. How is it possible that they were the same man?
Victor was met unexpectedly at the airport by his childhood best friend Anna, and when they stop at the chapel above the town, Victor, an agnostic or maybe even atheist, offers up a prayer about doing what has to be done. The old saying about being careful what you wish for is true in his case. An explosion in town and its fallout leads Victor into a mystery, which winds through this installment but doesn’t reach resolution, so we know there is more to come.
Along the way through the story, Victor hooks up with a twenty-one year old, who it turns out might be a little too close to Victor’s past. I’m usually not a fan of May/December romance, but in this case, the age difference wasn’t a huge part of the story. Instead the story was in great part about relationships between various characters. Those relationships both in the past and present were important to the overall story and there is interaction with Tino Vegas, Iggy and Johnny…all three fitting the description of the boy who got away. In addition to the mystery, there is interaction with the other townspeople, who as I said…can’t understand why Victor had an issue with his dad.
I’ll be honest and tell you I liked this story a lot…but…a couple things that I didn’t like were the slightly hurried ending and the what, to me, seemed like a wide open story line at the end of the book. I’m sure there are more Santo Domingo stories coming, so we’ll have to see where it goes from here. In my opinion, there is a lot more story to come, and I hope Mr. del Mar is bringing it to us soon! For those of you familiar with the Bennett Bay stories, trust me, the Santo Domingo stories are going to be a lot different, but certainly not in a bad way.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes a tale of a messed up homecoming, with some angst and characters with “issues”. It was well written and I look forward to future installments!