Cover Image: Cirque du Slay

Cirque du Slay

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Another entertaining mystery by this author even if it's a bit less fun than the first as there's too much going on.
Quirky and fleshed out characters, the intriguing world of the circus, solid mystery
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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This book made me so invested on how the victim died. The circus setting was super unique and I love that this book is a cast of almost all queer characters that is not a romance. There is a tiny bit of romance but that is in no way the main focus. This is the second book in the series and there’s some stuff that connects to the first book so I do recommend reading that first. This was a fun mystery. Not a cozy mystery, but not a thriller. Just a good mystery with a good cast of characters.

*Thank you netgalley and crooked lane for an advanced copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

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A light hearted and fast paced queer and cosy crime novel.

Circe Du Slay follows dynamic duo Hayden and Hollister, as they test their amateur crime solving abilities to clear their innocent friend’s name. Their investigation takes them to the travelling home of the wild and wonderful Mysterium circus show.

Although this book is the second of a series titled ‘Hayden and Friends’, I read it as a standalone and didn’t feel like I was disadvantaged at all. However, after reading this one, I’d definitely be looking into the previous novel and any future ones in this series.

One particular downfall for this book was there was a lot of unnecessary plot lines that either didn’t add anything to the story, or didn’t get wrapped up by the end of the novel which is always a little disappointing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thought it was such a fun read! I especially loved the queer found family aspects of the story.

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What to Expect:
🎪acrobat hotties
🎪sleuthing queer besties
🎪relationship blog inserts
🎪”if you can’t be you, then who can you be?”
🎪can be read as a stand alone
🫶🏽What worked for me
This has almost everything I want in a cozy! It’s a fairly light hearted easy read, full of characters you will love. I did read Devil’s Chew Toy first, and appreciated the storyline and characters more because of it. I was happy to get a follow up on Carlos (who went missing in book 1) and thrilled to see Hayden and Hollister are now besties! 🤩 That said, this book does include enough recaps to be read as a stand alone. I loved the way Hollister (artistic genius lesbian) and Jess (Hayden’s trans lawyer doppleganger) continue pushing Hayden (gay teacher/blogger) out of his comfort zone in the best way. If this continues as a series, I will absolutely keep reading!
🤷🏻‍♀️What might not work for others
It’s a cozy mystery so don’t go into this expecting mind blowing plot twists. I still had a question or two at the end about the mystery aspect, but the overall vibe of the book was chill enough that it didn’t bother me to not have all the answers.

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Middle school teacher by day and blogger by night, Hayden keeps himself busy. Now that spring break is right around the corner, though, he’s ready to let his hair down. The first order of business is to support his friends Burley and Sara Lee as they plan a huge fundraiser for Bakers without Borders. With his best friend Hollister in tow, Hayden arrives at the event space to see the main attraction: an exclusive appearance by Kennedy Osaka, creative director of the renowned Mysterium circus and childhood friend of Sara Lee. However, what should have been a night of fun fizzles fast when Kennedy is a no show. But nothing could have prepared Hayden, Hollister, and the rest of their gang for what happens later that night… when the police arrest Sara Lee for Kennedy’s murder.

Truth be told, Hayden thinks of Sara Lee as an annoying frenemy more than anything else. But her trouble strains the fabric of his friend group just as much as it lights a fire under Hollister. Determined to reprise their roles as crack-pot investigators, Hollister ropes Hayden into unraveling the mystery of how Kennedy died and who did it. Only by sleuthing around the Mysterium tents and their stars–not to mention one particularly attractive acrobat named Vlad–and with help from a lawyer named Jess who’s the spitting image of Hayden, can Hayden and Hollister hope to clear Sara Lee’s name and bring balance back to their found family.

Cirque du Slay is the second book in the Hayden & Friends series from author Rob Osler. The story is set in chilly, spring-time Seattle where Hayden and Hollister ping-pong between the Mysterium grounds, Jess’ houseboat, and the bakery run by Burley and Sara Lee. The short chapters are all told from Hayden’s perspective and, every now and again, the murder mystery plot is broken up with blog posts Hayden publishes to his queer slice-of-life blog.

I jumped into this book not knowing there was an earlier story in the series. It’s not my usual approach, but even before I realized there was more backstory to be had, I thought the events in this book stand well enough on their own. My understanding is that Hayden and Hollister do more amateur sleuthing in book one to help save/rescue/locate a man named Camilo. In this book, it’s clear Hayden has been crushing hard on Camilo, but he gets such mixed signals from the guy that Hayden never screws up enough courage to act. Vlad, one of the circus acrobats, adds a little more explicit romantic intrigue. Vlad is much more of an on-page presence and swings between “total murder suspect” and “emotional support rebound.” Personally, the romantic threads these two weave into the story are more decoration than plot, but they are a pleasant distraction from the sneaky sleuthing Hayden gets involved in.

The murder mystery plot is at the front and center of just about everything in the story. As the two MCs investigate, interview, and otherwise intervene on Sara Lee’s behalf, there are lots of clues about who the Mysterium cast and crew are. I think good mysteries present the reader with information and clues, but in ways that do not immediately lead them to the correct answer. Olser has done a fine job incorporating a large supporting cast in ways that build up the details about the circus. Many perspectives on the murder are introduced and many of the suspects are introduced as well. Personally, even with all this information, I never felt like our two MCs were making any real progress until Sara Lee takes an out of town trip the day before having to report back to police. When the investigation kicks into high gear, some of the details finally start gelling and Hayden helpfully spells it out on page through some guesswork. I did have the pleasure of a few “aha!” moments by the time the truth was uncovered, which is always great in a mystery.

As much as this book is about Hayden and Hollister solving the mystery of who murdered Kennedy Osaka, there is so much more going on. Osler does a great job incorporating the characters’ real worlds into the fabric of the book. For example, Hayden has an ailing 91-year-old best friend and Hollister is coping with an on-again-off-again girlfriend. I always enjoy it when there’s more to a story than just plowing through the plot and I absolutely felt like Hayden, Hollister, and their group of friends are more than just avatars going through the motions. The depth of these characters made the story more cozy for me.

Overall, this was a fun read. Fans of murder mysteries will appreciate the layers and details in the cast and constellation of events presented in this book. Readers who enjoy queer representation will also enjoy how multifaceted the characters are in their queer identities and a smidge of discussion on queer identities as Hayden blogs about befriending a transgender person. If you enjoy stories about tight-knit found families and that feature strong, well-defined characters, then I think you’ll really enjoy this story.

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Thank you to NetGalley for sending an eARC in exchange for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’m so, so disappointed. The premise of this book, title, and cover all had my hopes so high! I wanted to enjoy this. I really, really did. The writing felt undeveloped. I didn’t love any of the characters. The writer tried to have too many things going, too many little side stories. I feel like the story needed more time to be thought out and edited. I’m rating two stars for the idea because I love any and all support for the LGBTQ+ community, murder mysteries, and circuses.

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Hayden McCall and his BFF Hollister are entranced by a preview of the visiting Mysterium circus show. Mysterium's artistic director Kennedy Osaka has agreed to be the headliner for their friend Sarah Lee's Bakers Without Borders fundraiser. But Kennedy is a no-show & an angry Sarah finds Kennedy stabbed to death in her hotel room.

Hayden and Hollister want to find the real killer. With the help of a look-alike transgendered lawyer named Jess, they act as freelance reporters to question the Mysterium crew. To complicate matters, Hayden is infatuated with Vlad, a member of Adrenalin!, a sexy troop of Romanian male acrobats.

I really enjoyed the first book, Devil's Chew Toy, but this second book fell flat for me.

I received a digital ARC from Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books. All opinions are my own.

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<i>Cirque du Slay</i> by Rob Osler is the second book in his Hayden and Friends Mystery Series. Before I get into the book itself, I do want to point out that this is the second book in the series, something that is not overly clear on the cover of the book itself. I have not read the first book in the series, <i>Devils Chew Toy: A Mystery</i>, so I cannot completely tell you if it's necessary to read book one before you dive into book two. However, there were enough callbacks to book one that it definitely seems like it would be useful to read book one before reading book two. With that said, I did find the book enjoyable even though I hadn't read book one. I have since picked up a copy of Book 1 and plan on reading it at some point in the future.

Let's dive into <i>Cirque du Slay</i>. Obviously, the title of the book is a clear pun on Cirque du Soleil, which I found to be a good title because it draws attention to the circus, which plays a large part in the story, and the use of "slay" as a term used in the gay community.

Hayden McCall is a schoolteacher minding his own business when a quasi-friend of his is accused of murder. Hayden and his trusty sidekick, Hollister (though she would hate that term), set off to solve the murder of Kennedy Osaka, the new artistic director of the Mysterium, a high-end circus. Their "friend" Sarah Lee is accused of the murder because she's caught red-handed holding the knife. In Sarah Lee's defense, she doesn't remember anything about the night, a PTSD-induced amnesia?

Hayden and Hollister set out to find the truth. Along the way, we meet a cast of crazy circus performers from a gun-toting Annie Oakley type to a Russian hair-hanging acrobat. With so many possible people wanting Osaka dead, pinning down motives and alibis is far from easy.

And then there's Vlad, an Eastern European acrobat who has his eyes set on Hayden romantically. The only problem is, Vlad thinks Hayden works for the hotel where the murder happened and doesn't realize he's actually investigating the murder.

And during all of this mayhem, Hayden writes a relationship blog, which just seems to come out of nowhere and doesn't really serve the plot. Furthermore, Hayden worries that kids or parents will see the blog, so he puts it on Reddit where he can secure it? Again, this whole subplot just seemed extraneous and slowed down the whole story. Out of nowhere, we'd get these blog posts that seemed more like the author's way of delivering some internal monologue. How very Shakespearean meets 21st century.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. It's a fun, easy read. If you're looking for a good weekend book or something to take with you to the beach this summer, I would highly recommend checking out <i>Cirque du Slay</i>. It's far from perfect, but it's a lot of fun. And I truly appreciate the wide LGBTQIA+ cast shown in this book. Sure, they're all members of the tribe, but the book is less about that "tribe" than it is about creating family and then supporting that family.

I want to thank the author/publisher for the opportunity to read this book prior to publication. As a whole, I found this book very entertaining. While I am thankful for the opportunity to read the book before it hits the shelves, my review was not influenced by the publisher/author's generosity.

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Hayden and Hollister are back! Don't worry if you missed the first one- this second in the cozy series is just delightful, if perhaps a bit too more madcap in spots, as a standalone. The Mysterium has come to town and Kennedy, the star, has been murdered. Sara Lee didn't do it but who did? Hayden and Hollister must sort through members of the circus to find the villain and wow are these some characters. It's a hoot. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A nice twist for fans of the genre.

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A new mystery set at the circus. It features amateur detectives Hayden and Hollister as they investigate a murder in the hopes to clear the name of their frenemy, Sarah.

I wanted to like this because it sounded so fun! The characters were interesting, but I just didn't enjoy the writing a lot. Maybe others will enjoy it more.

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This is a quirky LGBTQ+ mystery filled with entertaining characters. Hayden McCall and his best friend Hollister are drawn into solving another mystery when Sarah Lee, a frenemy of Hayden's, is accused of murdering magician Kennedy Osaka.

The story is centered around Mysterium which is a traveling circus show featuring a variety of acts and including a Michelin-star dinner. Kennedy Osaka is the new star and artistic director for the show. Kennedy is an old college friend of Sarah Lee's. Kennedy had promised to perform at an event Sarah Lee is hosting. She doesn't show up which sends her to Kennedy's hotel in a raging temper. Next thing she knows she arrested standing of the corpse with dressmaker's sheers in her hands and no memory of what happened.

Hayden is a pint-sized, gay middle school teacher who also writes a column about gay dating. He's not much for putting himself out there. Hollister is a lesbian Black furniture designer who's fearless and imposing and Hayden's best friend. She's good at pushing him into situations that take him out of his comfort zone. This happens a lot in this case as they investigate the various acts at Mysterium to figure out who wanted Kennedy dead.

There are lots of suspects from fellow performers Kit, who has a comedy sharpshooting act, and Yazminka Smilova, a trapeze artist whose father owns the show. To Sasha Smilov who is Yazminka's brother and the manager of the show and Zell who does the costumes. Also included as suspects with one being a new crush for Hayden are a troupe of Romanian acrobats.

This was an entertaining mystery told by Hayden. I liked the diverse cast of characters which includes a new friend in transgender lawyer Jess Gemalto who looks enough like Hayden to be his twin. The story was filled with humor and lots of heart and had a nice lashing of danger for our main characters.

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2SLGBTQIA+ Cozy Mystery featuring a Washington middle school teacher and gay dating blogger and his best friend as they turn sleuthing duo when a friend's indicated in magician's murder.

5/5 stars: This is the second entry in Osler's Hayden & Friends series, which is a Cozy Mystery that takes place in Seattle, Washington and features a middle school teacher and gay dating blogger and his sleuthing partner, his best friend. With plenty of twists and turns, Osler has crafted a mystery that deftly balances the suspects, clues and red herrings and will leave you pondering the whodunit until the final reveal. Osler's characters are diverse, complex and incredibly likable. Hayden's down-to-earth and I love his relationships with his quirky and hilarious friends and family. I especially get a kick out of Hollister, his sleuthing partner, and his elderly friend Jerry. Additionally I really like the inclusion of Hayden's Mates on Dates blog posts, the topics are timely and heartfelt. And I can't wait to read more about Hayden's new dog, Alice, the hyperactive squirrel-chaser Dalmatian. Osler touches on some sensitive topics, so take care and check the CWs. While you could read this as a stand-alone, you'll gain so much more by reading this series from the beginning; so be sure to pick up book one, Devil's Chew Toy.

I received this eARC thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. Publishing dates are subject to change.

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there was a problem and the book expired and couldn't renew it, really sad because I was looking forward to it

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Special thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was not aware that this was the second book in a series, but that should not be a huge issue since the premises don't really connect.

The characters seem interesting enough, but I feel like their execution falls a bit flat, leaving me feeling indifferent to their plights.

This is definitely a more light mystery and while it wasn't for me, I believe that many people will love it.

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CIRQUE DU SLAY is the second book in the Hayden & Friends Mysteries by Rob Osler. This newest Quozy (queer cozy mystery) packs a lot on the pages. From a top-notch mystery, to laugh-out-loud humorous situations galore, to unique and close friendships, the story pulled me in and kept me intrigued and kept me turning pages. My only little quibble is that some of the “teasing” between the friends verges on meanness, but I realize the comments were meant in jest and not to be taken seriously. I look forward to reading more about protagonist Hayden and the zany antics he and his friends get pulled into!

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Well, the author has the 'cosy' aspect down; the characters are all sweet little puppy dogs who talk to each other about their feelings in heartfelt and heartwarming ways. The 'mystery' aspect could use some work, though. The protagonist, Hayden, tells us that he's not much of a detective. This is true. Leaving this one to the police would have been more effective and probably more entertaining.

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While I enjoyed a number of elements of Cirque du Slay, I never really connected with the book or its characters. I will admit that I have not read the first installment in the series, and it's possible that would have made a significant impact on my ability to connect with the story.

Hayden is a Seattle middle school teacher and amateur sleuth. With one previously solved mystery under his belt, he and his best friend Hollister are thrust into another case when their friend is accused of murder. The woman she is accused of murdering? Kennedy Osaka - celebrity performer and artistic director of Mysterium, an upscale circus arts show.

Throughout their journey, Hayden and Hollister encounter Hayden's slightly better coiffed doppelganger, some Romanian acrobats, drag performers, and one killer.

Tonally, I think the story just felt a bit like I was reading it one step further removed. I'm not sure if it was the narrative style, or Hayden as a character. Hayden also has blog posts about his dating life interspersed. I liked them, but I think I wanted them to give me a bit more insight on Hayden personally, and they were a bit too short for that.

Overall, I didn't connect with it, but it was a sweet, quirky queer amateur sleuth novel, so that's always a win in my books.

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A fine mystery with an interesting setting- but beyond that, the characters felt one-note and the writing was stilted and strange. Not for me.

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Cirque du Slay by Rob Osler was an interesting and quite intriguing story.
This book is a good cozy style mystery with queer characters. Which I enjoyed the characters a lot.
Osler has created some unique characters. And a really good story.

Thank You NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for your generosity and gifting me a copy of this amazing eARC!

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I dnf'd it at 25%. It was really boring since the beginning, too much descriptions and too confusing for me

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