The Shadow of the Soul is the second book in the noir/horror series The Forgotten Gods/The Dog-Faced Gods by Sarah Pinborough. Ace Trade is releasing the books here in the US a couple of months apart from one another as each was previously published in the UK between 2010-2011. The Shadow of the Soul picks up almost exactly where A Matter of Blood left off. DI Cass Jone has met with some success in his past cases but that success has cast a harsh light on the corruption within the London police force; a fact further ostracizing him from his peers. To make matters worse the lingering court cases resulting from his work in A Matter of Blood have left him with a boring case load. Of course that won’t remain the case as a series suicides hits London’s student body all linked by the mysterious phrase “Chaos in the Darkness.”
A Matter of Blood is the first in Sarah Pinborough’s Forgotten Gods (or Dog-Faced Gods if you’re in the UK) horror/noir series. I have a soft spot for urban fantasy but am pretty particular about the quality of the material in that subgenre. While many books in the urban fantasy realm stick to the somewhat conventional realm of mystery A Matter of Blood mixes together the gritty world of noir with horrific dark fantasy to create a vivid world painted in shades of gray. A Matter of Blood takes place in a near-future London where the economy is in shambles, detectives work on bonuses for convictions, corruption is rife (to offset the fact that those bonus are tied up in an overtaxed court system), and the seemingly powerful Bank has its hands in everything. Detective Inspector Cass Jones is a jaded but surprisingly hard-working police officer ostracized by his peers due to an undercover job that went wrong. Cass is about as honest as a corrupt cop can get and throughout the novel seems compels to catch whoever is responsible even when easier targets could be made to take the fall.
Mulholland Books, 2011
Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Stephen Romano
Black Light by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Stephen Romano (hereafter the Writers) is a gritty and over-the-top tale of supernatural noir. The Writers are the same guys who brought us the Saw franchise but (if you’re like me) don’t let that influence your decision to give Black Light a shot. Black Light is the story of Buck Carlsbad a private investigator with the gift of being able to see the dead and absorb them for later disposal. His gift comes with the side effect of being able to see the titular black light; the dead world around us. Orphaned at a young age Buck is haunted by the fate of his parents who disappeared into a dangerous triangle of black light activity. A triangle that a entrepreneur plans on building a super-speed railway straight through.
I’ve actually put off reviewing Daniel Polansky’s Low Town. Mainly so that my warm fuzzy feelings would fade some and I wouldn’t right some kind of crazy super glowing review. First off I should start by saying the UK title, The Straight Razor Cure, is way cooler than the US title. Low Town is a boring and nondescript title while The Straight Razor Cure is far more evocative of the tone Polansky is going for in the novel. You see Low Town is fantasy noir and in theme, tone, and plot is more reminiscent of a crime novel with a touch of magic. What sounds more noir to you: Low Town? Or The Straight Razor Cure?
The city of Rigus, jewel of the Thirteen Lands, is not the setting of this novel. Crouched at the feet of Rigus is the place known only as Low Town and there a man known only as The Warden makes his living selling drugs. The Warden wasn’t always a drug dealer. Once The Warden was a soldier, then he was an intelligence agent working for the shadowy Black House. Now though he walks a different path, at least right up until children start getting murdered on his turf. Dredging up unwelcome memories and unwelcome attention from his former masters the trail of bodies leads The Warden into dangerous, though familiar territories.
When checking out The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larsen over on Amazon I found out it is part of the Akashic Urban Surreal Series. Unfortunately, beyond that Amazon listing I can’t seem to find anything about this series beyond that it sort of exists. I mean, I guess the series title sort of explains it all but a little more information on it might be nice. Indeed, before even seeing that such a series existed I don’t think I would have classified this novel as surreal. Maybe it’s the fact that my senses are so inured from years of science fiction and fantasy that my interpretation of surreal is a bit askew. I found myself thinking of The Dewey Decimal System as slightly closer to post-apocalytpic fiction than anything else, though even that wasn’t quite right.
The Dewey Decimal System takes place in the husk of a New York City that has been all but abandoned after a flu pandemic, terrorist attacks, and the collapse of Wall Street. The titular character goes by the name of Dewey Decimal a gun-for-hire who makes his home in the New York Public Library working on the side to reorganize the collection into the proper Dewey classifications. Dewey is hired by the local Distract Attorney Rosenblatt to kill a man: Ukrainian gangster and all around bad guy Ivan Shapsko. Of course that isn’t everything. This wouldn’t be a quality hard-boiled/noir tale without a femme fatale and Larsen delivers with Iveta Shapsko; Ivan’s estranged wife. Dewey isn’t the type to follow orders blindly and the notion of just doing what he told never crosses his mind. Dewey’s quest for more information on his job leads him down an ever twisting path of violence made all the more fascinating by Dewey’s own unique psyche.
Noir: a novel
First Line: You are at the morgue.
Have you ever finished a book and put it down thinking that you weren’t sure what exactly happened but that you kind of liked it? Such was my experience with Robert Coover’s Noir. Noir is nominally a mystery though it is surrealistic and amorphous one; much like a particularly vivid dream. This dream perspective is perhaps aided by second person narration that puts the reader in the drivers seat but neglects to provide them with steering wheel, gas pedal, or break.