It is a special pleasure when an author draws both the mundane and the fantastic into their writing. In this fourth installment in the Dog Days series, John Levitt thrilled me with the magical world he created, the mystery that drives the plot, and a number of sweet little details about the day to day of being a musician.
Despite this being the first of the Dog Days books I’ve read, I found it both accessible and pleasant to jump into the action from Mason’s perspective. Information was given about both Mason’s confederates and the magical variations they practice without any sort of data dump. The sympathetic magic Mason practices was particularly interesting, especially the details about how his jazz background lent itself to an improvisational magical style.
And Mason needed all the improv skills he could muster to unravel the threats he faced. The mystery elements of PLAY DEAD held hints of our favorite Chicago wizard, if only because Mason shared Harry Dresden’s inability to see danger in the form of a beautiful woman. Levitt does a good job of making the story his own, however, and I found the similarities with Dresden superficial if anything. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more of Dresden, though, when Mason had moments of immaturity where he exposed himself to additional danger. While these episodes didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book, they certainly helped me understand why all the women in Mason’s life are of the ex- variety.
The one relationship Mason seems to do well with maintaining is his partnership with Lou, his canine Ifrit companion. I particularly liked that, despite being a mysterious magical creature, Lou was still a dog that loves bacon, squirrels, and bad smells. Lou sometimes has a hard time getting his blockhead owner to understand what he was “saying,” and I thought that added a great dynamic between him and Mason. Rather than taking all the guess work out of the mystery, Lou added another level of interpretation for Mason (and thus the reader) to navigate.
Playing along with Lou and Mason was both a satisfying read and a great introduction to the Dog Days world. While I’m not yet ready to commit to a pre-order, I am going to head back to the eponymous first book, DOG DAYS, to see where Lou and Mason got their start.
Sexual Content: A mildly graphic sex scene.