Dead To Me, by Anton Strout, follows Simon Canderous, a recently recruited agent of the Department of Extraordinary Affairs. Simon has psychometric poDead To Me, by Anton Strout, follows Simon Canderous, a recently recruited agent of the Department of Extraordinary Affairs. Simon has psychometric powers, which allow him to glean information about objects and people by touching them. This makes it difficult for him to have relationships with other people, as just being around their stuff can be mentally overwhelming.
This book got off to a slow start, but by chapter three, it had hit its stride and we really get a taste of Simon's daily life and the oddities he deals with. He and his partner encounter a ghost who hasn't fully realized she's dead yet. As they try to piece the details of her demise together, they uncover a cult that's doing some rather unpleasant things to the spirits in New York.
The book is packed with snarky humor and clever one liners. I especially liked the pamphlet titles that Simon was forced to read during his training. It really helped give a picture of the organization he's working for.
Simon himself is an ex-thief who decided to turn his life around. He doesn't carry a gun, but has a retractable bat. I give style points on that one, and we get the added bonus of Simon throwing out some cheeky remark before doing battle with zombies, cultists, or animated furniture. His partner, Connor, is slightly more seasoned, but has his fair share of zingers too. Jane, the innocent girl turned-bad-turned-good-again is also a lot of fun to read. You have to love a girl who will write an entry in her diary while she's staking out an assassination target.
All in all, this book is a fun read and a good story. I look forward to reading more of Simon's adventures. ...more
Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch is an urban fantasy that follows Peter Grant, a London constable who's recently learned he has an aptitude for magic.Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch is an urban fantasy that follows Peter Grant, a London constable who's recently learned he has an aptitude for magic. He's quickly recruited into the force's secret paranormal division by an Inspector named Nightingale.
Peter and Nightingale's first case is to track down a supernatural killer who's possessing people and doing horrific acts of violence. Along the way they meet ghosts, the personifications of various London rivers, and a host of other police who don't believe in magic.
Aaronovitch did a great job with this book. The characters are likable, and there some great bits of humor. At one point, Peter asks Nightingale if he's a wizard like Harry Potter. Nightingale replies, "No, not like Harry Potter." "In what way?" "I'm not a fictional character."
The thing I really liked about Peter Grant is that he's a constable first and a wizard second. His first reaction to any situation is to cite the appropriate police response, not to decide which spell to sling. That really helped solidify his identity and what makes him tick.
In terms of the magic itself, Peter has an ability to detect the magical residue left behind at crime scenes. This gives him an impression of the circumstances around the crime and helps focus his investigations. He gradually learns how to make light and throw fire, and eventually learns how to perform various rituals that aid in investigative work. The upshot though, is that all the magic he learns is there to make him a better detective in some way, not just to give him some cool special effects.
Aaronovitch plants a lot of great seeds that no doubt will be explored further in future books. For example, magical research seems to have stopped in the year 1913. Nightingale's background is a bit of a mystery, and I can't wait to find out just what Molly the maid really is.
The only gripe I had with this book came about 3/4 of the way through. After a losing encounter with the main antagonist, Peter limps back to his parents' house, because that's the only place he can think to go. While there, he and his father have a perfectly mundane conversation. I realize that this was probably done to give the reader a chance to catch their breath, but the stop in action was so abrupt that it nearly killed all the tension that had been so well built up to that point. The book quickly got back up to speed after that scene though, and had a very clever and satisfying ending.
All in all, this is a great story. I would recommend it and intend to pick up Aaronovitch's next book in the series, Moon Over Soho....more
Bloodshot is the first book in a new series by Cherie Priest. Our main character, a vampire cat-burglar named Raylene Pennington, has just taken a jobBloodshot is the first book in a new series by Cherie Priest. Our main character, a vampire cat-burglar named Raylene Pennington, has just taken a job to "recover" some classified documents from a secret goverment facility. Her client, another vampire named Ian, was kidnapped and experimented on some years earlier, and these experiments resulted in the loss of his sight. It is Ian's hope that recovering the files may help him reverse the process and restore his vision.
I thought this was a great book and there were several aspects that I particularly enjoyed.
For starters, we get a good insight into how Raylene works as a thief. We see how she performs research and her thought process as she considers her options. Priest does this concisely and efficiently. We aren't subjected to lengthy explanations and extraneous details; Raylene tells us what she's doing, why she's doing it, and that's it. Raylene's methods of preparation are both obsessive and amusing. She carries a bag that's loaded with everything including the kitchen sink, even though she herself admits that there's no way she'll ever need all that stuff.
While the insight into her life as a thief is good, the insight into her life as a person is even better. Her moments of introspection and reflection aren't the "Oh, I'm a vampire, I lost my humanity, woe is me" type of thing. Instead, she has moments of fear around losing her vision, like Ian did. The anger and hatred she feels at the people responsible for this is palpable; it makes her all the more convincing and relatable as a character.
I especially enjoyed how Priest handled Raylene's vampiric powers. Raylene is extremely strong, super fast, and has the accelerated healing abilities that we all know and love. However, Raylene is not invincible. She gets in over her head several times, and is forced to run away as often as she stands and fights. Another thing is that Raylene has no qualms about feeding on humans. That said, she mainly feeds on unlikable characters, which gives the reader a certain grim satisfaction. I thought this made Raylene all the more likable. Other bits of vampiric culture are woven into the story - there are vampire familiars called ghouls, clans of vampires in various parts of the world, and we get a hint of Raylene's back story, but all this is done casually; Priest's world building is subtle, not heavy handed.
Priest has also put together a great supporting cast in Bloodshot. In particular, there are Pepper and Domino, a pair of orphans that Raylene has inadvertantly taken under her wing, and Sister Rose/Adrian, an Ex Navy SEAL/Drag Queen Raylene picks up along the way.
All in all, Bloodshot is a fun story with a great cast. I'm looking forward to future books in this series....more