Pop Bop's Reviews > The Dead Hamlets

The Dead Hamlets by Peter Roman
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it was amazing
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A Rewarding, Witty, Hot Mess of Angel-Pummeling, Action and Noir Detective Fiction

Cross is an immortal being who keeps himself going by killing angels and taking their "grace". It would be pointless to try to summarize any more of his backstory, but since he is a talkative drunk he will tell you the rest during the course of this book. Suffice to say that he comes across, at first, as a pretty standard angel-noir angsty tough guy with a lot of regrets and a chip on his shoulder.

In this outing he is being blackmailed, (in a sense), by the queen of the fae to solve the mystery of why players keep being murdered during the course of faerie theatrical presentations of Shakespeare's plays. Has the "Macbeth" curse gone viral? Is something else going on? Like any good noir the thing/person/answer our anti-hero is looking for doesn't matter that much at the outset; it's the search, the double-crosses, the strange characters, and the patter that provides the entertainment value. And this book has it in spades.

Especially at the outset before the story gets fully up to speed Cross is all over the place as a character. He keeps telling us he's a drunk, and that gets old after a while. He's all depressed about his dead mortal wife and kidnapped dead/reanimated daughter, and the angsty navel gazing can also get old. But that's a quibble, (and a bedrock noir convention anyway), and it goes away after a while. Everything else is top drawer. Cross has to work his way through the usual array of characters who may or may not be helping him. Here, we get the three real Witches from MacBeth, a hilariously decent and thoughtful Frankenstein, a creepy insane Alice from Wonderland, a slippery Marlowe, and a distracted and mild-mannered Scholar, not to mention an impossibly large number of cameo bits ranging from the Ravenmaster of the Tower of London, to Anubis, to various angels, innumerable ghosts and apparitions, and the like.

The author loves to drop a name or an idea in at every opportunity, so we have references to theology, philosophy, epistemology, angelology, literature, history, and pretty much every major figure from the popular culture of the last few centuries. Sometimes Cross feels like the Forrest Gump of haunted/cursed immortals, showing up at everything from Arthur's Round Table to Hiroshima. But here's the thing - most of it works, and if something doesn't work then something better will be along in just a moment. (For what it's worth, a number of scenes have Cross interacting with characters while they are performing Shakespeare plays. For example, he asks the three Witches for a favor while they are all doing MacBeth because that's the only way he can meet with them. I know that sounds precious, but it's actually pretty inspired and it works beautifully. )

I have to admit that at first I thought this would just be another snappy-patter angelcentric private eye noir, and at first it is. But Cross grows on you and once the setup is complete and the story gets moving everything just gets better and more interesting. Half-way through it becomes a real mystery that drives to a subtle and satisfying conclusion. In the meantime, there are lots of little details and throw-away bits about Cross and his history that make him a much more interesting protagonist than he at first seems. There are also many amusing, satirical, ironic and perceptive comments tossed away almost in passing by all of the characters, even some of the least significant.

This is a busy book, with a lot of busy, inventive angles and many unexpected and amusing touches and grace notes. I'm happy I didn't just dismiss it as another angel-hard-boiled; it's much more than that. It's fun, it's smart, it's a little unhinged, it is cleverly and propulsively plotted and it screams along like a rocket. I'm in.

Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
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