Noah’s Orphans / Thomas E. Sniegoski
I immensely enjoyed my time with both the Green and Butcher stories. Little did I know that the real gems of this book were going to be the final two stories. Richardson’s Greywalker series is one I’ve kept my eye on and, if her long fiction is of the same quality as what is in Mean Streets she has certainly skyrocketed up my “to-be-read” list. Sniegoski I am only familiar with through the TV-movie/mini-series based off his YA series Fallen (which I enjoyed) I found his hard-boiled angelic mystery highly enjoyable and extremely original take on the “urban fantasy” (or perhaps “fantasy noir” might be a better term) genre. More after the jump…
“The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog” by Kat Richardson is steeped strongly in Mexican beliefs regarding death and the afterlife. While I can’t attest to Richardson’s accuracy I can certainly say that her writing is clear, concise, and education with out ever shifting into a pedantic tone. In many ways her story resembles a tradition “locked door” mystery except in this story’s case that door happens to be death. Unfortunatley for Harper Blaine both the victim and the client are both already dead. Blaine has the ability to see into the “grey” the place where spirits, ghost, and other unsavories reside, making her the perfect canidate to unraveling this mystery.
Richardson’s story is tight, sticking mostly to the plot of story while offering only scant details on Blaine’s past. By taking her character out of her hometown and sending her to Mexico Richardson provides readers with an accurate and (mostly) spoiler free way of introducing readers to Blaine. Of course this works two ways. I’ve always found that supporting cast can be part of the fun with these stories (think Bob from the Dresden Files and even Dead Boy from the Nightside story in this volume) and removing the main character from the support system put a huge burden on the main character. It works here though, and while I would like to know more about the individuals mentioned early in the story, the clarity of Richardson’s writing and ability to craft a vivid setting elevate this far beyond a typical fish out of water story.
Sniegoski’s story “Noah’s Orphans” stars Remy Chandler (with a dog name Marlowe) a.k.a the seraphim Remiel who has taken on human guise and now works as a Boston P. I. The story opens immediatly after the events of A Kiss Before the Apocalypse so if you were really looking to read that book first you might want to skip this story. Remy it seems has been living as a human for quite some time, was married but lost his wife to cancer (I’m unsure when that happened) and is now mourning her death while attempting to avoid getting re-entangled in the affairs of angels. Unfortunatley, they suck him back in fairly quickly. The Grigori (fallen angels bound to Earth) have discovered that Noah (made nigh immortal via God’s touch) has been murdered and enlist Remy to track down the killers.
Moreso than Richardson’s story “Noah’s Orphans” exudes a sense of history and backstory and that seems to work to Sniegoski’s advantage. In a few scant pages Sniegoski manages to paint Remy with varying levels of complexity thanks to a masterful portrayal of the tension between his human side (his compassion for humanity and grief for his wife) and angel drive for justice without regard for the laws of man. Like Richardson’s story, Sniegoski manages to use a recognizable belief structure to create both an air of familiarty and the fantastic. In Fallen one of my favorite aspects was Aaron’s ability to communicate with his dog and “Noah’s Orphan’s” employs the same mechanic between Remy and Marlowe. In fact early in the story it is Marlowe’s inability to grasp the idea of death the creates one of the most heartbreaking moments of the story and really hammers home the depth of Remy’s loss. If my list of future reads weren’t long enough Sniegoski turned out another taught, well-told story with an original setting and fascinating mythology that has me interested enough to seek out the previously published Last Kiss Before Armegeddon and the forthcoming Dancing on the Head of a Pin.
For fans of urban fantasy, in particular fans of Butcher’s Dresen Files (especially those who haven’t read anything else beyond Dresden), Mean Streets serves as an excellent entry point in discovering some newer authors. Mystery fans looking for something a bit different will likely find a lot to like here as well. Truth be told anyone who likes a good story should do themselves a favor and seek out Mean Streets. I guarantee that you won’t regret it.