As the Crow Flies

If you like short, sharp police procedurals, and don’t mind too much about flat characters and awkward dialogue, there’s enough here to keep you entertained for an evening, but only just.

 I fancied a police procedural without any weird magical stuff, so I gave this a shot (Kindle version, as part of a free 7 day Kindle Unlimited trial).  DI Nick Dixon has recently moved back to his home town, leaving the fast pace of the Metropolitan police force behind.  It’s early days, and while he hasn’t made any obvious enemies in his new role, he’s not making friends fast either.  With hardly any furniture in his house, few friends other than his dog, but plenty of memories of the area, his day is about to be ruined as he becomes involved in investigating the death of his one time climbing partner and friend, Jake.

As the Crow Flies is Damien Boyd’s first novel and it’s pretty short; at 173 pages it took me about 3 hours to finish.  The pace is flat, the dialogue is stilted and the prose is extremely workmanlike.  Half way through (and I was surprised to find myself half way through) I wondered if the author was in the police force, because most of the novel is written in the style of a police statement.  DI Nick goes here, has this conversation, records these facts, then goes and buys some chips.  There’s very little character development, and the prose is very light on emotional content.  Perhaps the dialogue is accurate in the sense that it is how people talk in police briefing rooms, but it doesn’t work very well in a novel format if that’s the case.

The plot is reasonably simple, but engaging, with one suspicious death leading to various interesting events.  It’s just that the delivery is so straight and flat that it’s hard to care about anyone involved.  Boyd’s clearly spent some time rock-climbing, and there are plenty of climbing references (many unintelligible to me) throughout, with descriptions of some nice climbing locations which I assume are real.  If you like climbing, you’ll get more from the book than a non-climber.

To give Boyd his due, I did finish the book, I was interested enough in the crime to keep going, especially when I realised how short it was going to be, but honestly it has the feeling of a first novel in need of much more depth.

Boyd, it turns out, is a former solicitor and I can’t help but wonder if that is where the style comes from – having had to spend so much time writing out factual accounts of events.  There are plenty more books in this series, so people are buying them, and I hope that Boyd manages to loosen up his style as the books progress.  I’m just not sure I’m going to immediately turn to them as my next read.  I’m giving this a pretty low score generally, but the book has plenty of five star reviews on Amazon.  If you like short, sharp police procedurals, and don’t mind too much about flat characters and awkward dialogue, there’s enough here to keep you entertained for an evening, but only just.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Damien Boyd
  • Series: The DI Nick Dixon Crime Series (1)
  • Format: Kindle
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • Genre: Crime
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

The Hanging Tree

The Hanging Tree is like a gentle, rolling hillside. It’s a pleasant walk in the summer with a little bit of exertion towards the end, but nothing you can’t handle before settling down for a nice pint and a pie.

 I’ve read a number of different urban fantasy series.  Jim Butcher’s Dresden stuff, Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books and Simon Green’s Nightside stories among them.  Along with Aaronovitch‘s Rivers of London, they all have some stuff in common; a male protagonist with some supernatural ability who is investigating crimes or tracking down people or spirits.  In the case of Dresden and John Taylor (Nightside), they’re private investigators, Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and in Ben’s books, we have Peter Grant, a police officer and practitioner (wizard).  In all four series, there’s some crime or incident to resolve against the backdrop of a deeper and darker mystery which deepens further as more books are released.  It’s a common format and it risks getting a little bit tiring.

However, despite the similarities the books all have very different flavours.  Jim Butcher writes loud roller-coasters with explosive conclusions and long lasting impacts.  Mike Carey’s books are a bleak look at human nature and how we live, or don’t live, with our actions.  Simon Green writes weird fantastical stories in weird places with weird outcomes and big characters.

Ben Aaronovitch it would seem, writes very British urban fantasy.  It’s all very polite and erudite and intensely focussed on not making a fuss.

The Hanging Tree is the sixth instalment in the Rivers of London series (not counting the graphic novels), and it’s a very fine read indeed.  Don’t take my comment about it being polite as a negative, it’s just a very different feel to the rest of the urban fantasy market.  The police element of the story is as strong as ever here and I love it.  One of my major objections to a lot of police serial stuff is the lack of banal activity, actual policing and the proper consequences of actions.  In The Hanging Tree, we get a clear view of how the police handle real crimes and situations, and although they’re clearly exaggerated in order to handle Falcon Incidents (i.e. weird magical shit) it feels real, grounded and truly interesting.  Peter and his colleagues fill in reports and do interviews, they follow suspects and only actually arrest them if they have some decent evidence.  There’s very little shoot first and deal with the fallout, and a lot of risk reviews and tactical planning.  It’s not mired in detail, and so it’s not boring, but it is present and it makes the world feel so much more real.

Ben’s descriptions of London, architecture and history fascinate me throughout the books, and make the location a character in its own right.  The source of the name of the series (pun intended), the rivers of London, are enticing and interesting and provide a real foil for the rest of the characters and stories.  The other characters are well developed where necessary, as well as interesting and engaging.  They’re also, it seems to me, representative of the feminist, multi-cultural, multi-sexual nature of London.  I’m not the right person to say how well that’s handled, but it’s the first time I’ve read an urban fantasy book where the male protagonist isn’t white and where (in this case) the strong female sidekick is a modern Muslim.

Dialog is witty and sharp, with some laugh out loud moments and some great character interactions.  The plot is pretty light again, however, and really plays second fiddle to the characters and the broader story arc.  As a result, the plot in The Hanging Tree very quickly turns towards the deeper mystery in the series, and doesn’t really carry any interest on its own.  Personally, I didn’t mind because I enjoyed the progression of the main story, but some people might find it a little light, and it’s very much not stand-alone.  You’re going to have to read the previous books to understand this one.

You could argue that The Hanging Tree is too genteel for urban fantasy.  There’s certainly a gruesome death or two, there’s a magical battle, and a flying car, but it’s so very calm.  I think that’s a result of Peter Grant’s narration, and it’s clearly an intentional choice by Ben.  However, if you’re looking for giant explosions and epic magical battles, you’ll need to look elsewhere, because The Hanging Tree is more personal, smaller, and written for TV rather than Hollywood.  I don’t think it suffers for it, but if you’re not expecting it, you’re going to be left feeling slightly flat.

A stand out element for me personally, is that Peter Grant isn’t the most powerful good guy in the story.  He’s not even the best cop.  He’s just a guy, trying his best, surrounded by other good coppers and some very powerful players.  Sure he can hold his own in the fights, but he’s not Harry Dresden, growing increasingly powerful and increasingly hard to beat.  Ben keeps him grounded, surrounded by reality, with enough magical power to deliver surprises, but not so much that the enemies have to become world threatening.

I’ve often described the pace and mood of a book with a simple line graph.  Time along the bottom, excitement or pace on the y-axis.  Many books have lines which look like roller-coaster rides, or castle crenellations, or steep hills rising to a crescendo.  The Hanging Tree line is like a gentle, rolling hillside starting and ending in pretty much the same place.  It’s a pleasant walk in the summer with a little bit of exertion towards the end, but nothing you can’t handle before settling down for a nice pint and a pie.

Ben ensures you care about the characters, you’re interested in the story progression and you want to keep turning the pages.  It’s fascinating, engaging and interesting, but it’s not the kind of book that’ll blow your socks off.

You should buy it and read it though, because it’s the best version of magic in the real world I’ve ever read.  Also, Muslim Ninja.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Ben Aaronovitch
  • Series: Rivers of London (6)
  • Format: Hardback
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Foxglove Summer

 I don’t read that much these days, because it’s difficult to find stuff that really grabs my attention.  There are, however, a few exceptions, and the DC Peter Grant books (The Rivers of London series to some) are in that group.  I’ve been looking forward to the paperback release of the 5th book (Foxglove Summer) since it was announced (on account of me being too cheap to buy the hardback), and have been reading it in my lunch break at work since it arrived.

Ben’s style is very easy going, and that makes reading the books very easy as well.  The tone is informal and inviting and I often think, regardless of the content, I could spend hours just reading his prose and enjoy it in the same way you might enjoy a warm bath.

As is common in the kind of urban fantasy I read, Foxglove Summer has a crime to solve, and in the background there’s a long running arc, some impending doom or event that is being foreshadowed.  Painted over those two features are the lives of the characters that inhabit the story.  Unusually, Ben pretty much pushes all of the key characters into the sidelines in this outing, with DC Peter Grant being sent off out of London.  Other than Beverly Brook, the other regulars (Nightingale, Molly, Leslie, et. al) are all pretty much handled at arms length.  Peter is on his own, and while that presents some challenges, it also left me feeling a little bit bereft.

Two girls have gone missing, and what starts out being a routine check on practitioners for Peter, turns into a full-on Falcon event (the Police terminology in the book for ‘weird shit’).

The pace was okay, although as with some of the previous books, I felt again that the ending was quite damp.  This may be because I had to stop only a chapter from the end and then pick it up again, but it all feels quite gentle.  Maybe this is intentional, police work doesn’t finish with the final chase, but rather with all the paperwork afterwards, but it still leaves me feeling deflated.  In combination with the lack of supporting characters, this means I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the fourth in the series which I feel was much stronger.

However, it’s not all bad.  The police procedural elements are as fascinating as ever, the new characters were great, the setting was interesting and the magical elements were worth the effort.  Foxglove Summer is another quite low key story in the magic department after Broken Homes’ must stronger magical element, but as usual it’s blended with the other elements perfectly.

The humour is great, most of it being delivered through DC Grant’s PoV, which is as engaging and witty as ever.  I really could spend hours just reading about DC Grant going about regular police work.

The plot has twists, and the long running story arc is interesting (but you need to have read the others to get it).

Foxglove Summer is an interesting, entertaining read, albeit diminished by the reduced cast.  What the book lacks in tension, it makes up for with humour, wit and intelligence.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Ben Aaronovitch
  • Series: Rivers of London (5)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Obsession in Death

Thus begins another case for Eve Dallas and the gang; another great book with all the characters we know and love and a strong plot-line. How does J.D. Robb manage to consistently bring out such great stories?

 A crisp winter morning in New York. In a luxury apartment, the body of a woman lies stretched out in a huge bed. On the wall above, the killer has left a message in bold, black ink: For Lieutenant Eve Dallas, with great admiration and understanding.

Thus begins another case for Eve Dallas and the gang; another great book with all the characters we know and love and a strong plot-line. How does J.D. Robb manage to consistently bring out such great stories?

This time, Eve is struggling with the fact that the killer is someone who wants to be her best friend – she has enough trouble keeping up with the friends she has without a murderer wanting to join the ranks. Despite outward appearances, Eve takes murders that happen on her watch very personally, and even more so when it is claimed they are done in her name. There are some difficult moments for Eve while trying to reconcile this but she still manages to kick ass and plough on.

Having to worry about her friends more than usual makes Eve once again try to reconcile her desire for a quiet life, with the number of people she has acquired! There are instances here where Eve lets her softer side shine through more so than usual.

The regular gang are all present and Peabody is definitely coming into her own now, more confident in her role as Eve’s partner rather than aide. Some of the interactions between them are golden.

besides” – on impulse she slung an arm around Peabody, cuddled her stunned partner in – “my partner’s got the better tits.”

Roarke is of course ever present and as usual he and Eve remain the at the centre. Never mind Eve though, where can I get me a Roarke?  Always there reminding Eve to eat and look after herself, knowing what she needs almost before she does. The dynamic between them does not get old (neither does the sex!) despite the 40 books they have been in, and if anything was to happen to him I would be devastated.

J.D. Robb is an amazing writer and despite this series having so many books, you could easily pick up here and not be disappointed. I would urge anyone who might be daunted by reading 40 books to catch up – just don’t. Read this one then you will want to go back and read the rest.

I love this series, I love these characters and I will eagerly await the next book. I cannot get enough and really, really, encourage people to read it.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: J. D. Robb
  • Series: In Death (40)
  • Format: Hardback
  • Publisher: Piatkus
  • Genre: Crime
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

 

Broken Homes

Broken Homes is back on par with the first book in the series. It was enjoyable, easy to read, gripping and exciting. It’s left me looking forward to the fifth book, and there’s not much wrong with that.

 Broken Homes is the fourth book in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series.  I’m not sure if he’s actually using that series name, but Amazon and various other sites are, so I guess I will.  It could equally be called the fourth DC Grant book, which is probably more accurate.  Although the Rivers certainly make appearances in each of the books, their influence wanes and waxes, where Peter Grant is the central character.

The series is essentially a supernatural police procedural, with DC Grant forming a third of the police unit within the Met that investigates ‘weird stuff’, along with Nightingale (his boss) and Lesley, his ‘it’s complicated’ friend and colleague.  The Folly, which is their base of operations is home to them, a dog, and Molly, a slightly sinister housekeeper. It’s best not to argue with Molly in case she eats you.

The rest of the cast is made up of normal police officers (normal in the sense that they aren’t magical, their personalities are often far from average), a range of magical and non-magical bad guys, various supernatural entities who may or may not be goblins, river spirits, gods and demons and a sinister arch-nemesis, the Faceless Man.

It’s common in Urban Fantasy for there to be something to investigate, a long running arc which may or may not be linked, and one or two other weird things going on which all magically come together at the end, and Ben’s approach is no different.  The story starts with a mixture of crimes, not all of them obviously related, and an ongoing investigation in the identity of the Faceless Man.  As the tale progresses, links appear to start to form and as Peter digs deeper and deeper, both the danger and the connections increase.

Eventually, things explode at the end, with dramatic and tragic consequences.

I was surprised how little magic there was in the third book of the series, given the focus in the first two was more aimed at the supernatural side of the world.  Book four makes a return to that focus, with plenty of police work, but equally significant amounts of mystical and magical actions.  There’s an excellent section with the most obvious and overt use of magical power in the series so far, where Nightingale finally gets to let rip, and this alone would be reason to read the book.

The pace is well judged, and the story builds tension throughout, I was constantly expecting things to go south but when they finally did, I was surprised at the direction it took.  On reflection, I shouldn’t have been – which is always a good sign.  The hints were there, and in the back of my mind I’d formed the connections, but it wasn’t until I read the words that it all clicked in to place.

Ben’s characters are so very real; they leap from the page.  The dialogue is simply sublime, and he doesn’t pull any punches to make his characters softer or more likeable.  His use of a strongly mixed race and mixed gender cast is second to none in the urban fantasy arena; although he uses those racial and gender differences in the story, they are well blended, sensible and useful, rather than merely being there to tick boxes.

It’s not all perfect however.  Sometimes the book feels like a series of events strung together, which of course most books are, and yet with Ben’s I can sometimes see the joins.  It’s not a serious issue, the dialogue and the plot eventually win out, and I can’t put my finger on exactly why it feels like this, but it’s not as smooth as say Dresden or the Felix Castor series, both of which are similar in style to Rivers of London.  There was a lengthy section in the book about the Rivers of London celebrating the arrival of spring, which was sort of interesting but I’m not sure it drove the story forward at all, and I could have lived without it.

Those two minor points aside, Broken Homes is back on par with the first book in the series.  It was enjoyable, easy to read, gripping and exciting.  It’s left me looking forward to the fifth book, and there’s not much wrong with that.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Ben Aaronovitch
  • Series: Rivers of London (4)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Whispers Under Ground

 Whispers Under Ground is the third book in the Rivers of London (or DC Peter Grant) series.  The book sees familiar characters DC Peter Grant, Nightingale (his boss), Stephanopoulos (his other boss), Seawoll (his other, other boss), and Lesley, who’s face he ruined, work together to solve another mysterious crime in London.  This time, there’s been a murder on in the London underground and if DC Peter Grant isn’t careful, he might have to do some real police work.

Ben’s prose is punchy, witty and very easy to read.  His insight into both the mind of DC Grant and the workings of various London authorities is entertaining and laugh out loud in places.  DC Grant is great, and he feels amazingly real.  There isn’t any cliché here or a feeling of made up emotions.  Peter is honest, embarrassing, offensive, offended and emotionally stunted in all the right places.  His interactions with those around him are a master class in observational writing, and frankly, I could read pages and pages about Peter doing little other than going shopping.

Thankfully, Aaronovitch gives Peter just a little bit more than that to do.  As is traditional with urban fantasy there’s a ‘background arc’ and the actual police case to be getting on with.  Both are engaging, to some degree, although neither was rivetingly interesting.  The murder case is about some people we don’t really know, or get to know much, and the background arc is a little thin on the content.

However, the introduction of a couple of new characters (an FBI agent, and someone from the British Transport Police) give Peter and Leslie some excellent material to work with, and generate a load of excellent banter.

The whole book felt rather gentle, there’s no great surprises, and although there are a few moments of genuine peril, overall it was a much more relaxed investigation than either book one or book two.  The magical content is pretty low as well, with the primary focus being on the police procedural aspect and actually pounding the pavement as it were.  I didn’t miss the supernatural elements, and there’s still enough to make it fantasy rather than a crime drama, but I do wonder about the overall direction.

The end is rather simple, and delivered pretty much out of the blue.  There’s plenty of supporting material, but if you could figure out the detail in advance, then it was too clever for me.  It’s not an issue, because without the legwork it wouldn’t have been there, but it’s certainly not the climax to a long and thrilling chase, for example.

In the end, Whispers Under Ground is a book about DC Grant, and along the way he solves a murder with the help of some other interesting people.  It’s engaging, witty, and absolutely well worth reading, but it’s not going to bowl you over with suspense.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Ben Aaronovitch
  • Series: Rivers of London (3)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Festive in Death

 The kitchen knife jammed into his cold heart pinned a cardboard sign to his well-toned chest. It read: Santa Says You’ve Been Bad!!! Ho, Ho, Ho!

It’s Christmas, but Lieutenant Eve Dallas is in no mood to celebrate. While her charismatic husband Roarke plans a huge, glittering party, Eve has murder on her mind.

The victim – personal trainer Trey Ziegler – was trouble in life and is causing even more problems in death. Vain, unfaithful and vindictive, Trey had cultivated a lot of enemies. Which means Eve has a lot of potential suspects. And when she and Detective Peabody uncover Trey’s sinister secret, the case takes a deadly turn.

Christmas may be a festival of light, but Eve and Roarke will be forced once more down a very dark path in their hunt for the truth.

I honestly don’t know how J.D. Robb does it.  Thirty-nine books in and the stories are still fresh, gripping, emotional and funny. I keep expecting some dip in form, some ‘haven’t I read this before’ feeling but no, Festive in Death was just unique and brilliant.

The full cast we’ve come to know and love are back and as colourful as ever.  Peabody is a favourite of mine in particular, because of how she copes with Eve’s acerbic nature.  She gives as good as she gets but in her own style which makes me laugh.

Eve herself makes a lot of progress in this book, realising just how important the connections with her friends are and there are several moments that made me a bit weepy but with a big grin at the same time. Her bafflement with social norms never fail to make me laugh and Roarke’s fierce love and patience with her are wonderful.  She is her usual sarcastic and kick-ass self but her sharp edges are getting just a little softer.  Not that she would admit to it!

The crime is a sneaky one, J.D. Robb is a master at getting you to look one way while she sneaks something in elsewhere and in this book she does it wonderfully well, keeping you guessing until the last minute.  As always, the police procedure elements are extremely well written and give you the sense that it’s not all action; cases also get solved through hard work and digging through evidence, witnesses and backgrounds until you get to the truth.

The pace of the book gives you a sense of urgency; with Christmas approaching the need to get to the answers before things shut down or people go away to visit relatives is a mounting pressure.  Also looming is the party, and that was just so good I had to read it again.  Cue weepy joyful things and Eve’s antisocial tendencies, run ins with Summerset and you have one amazing read.

This book just hit all my buttons and as usual I absolutely can’t wait for the next.

Just sensational!

If you want to start with this series (and you really, really should!) then Naked in Death is the first book.

Book Information
  • Author: J.D. Robb
  • Series: In Death (39)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Thankless in Death

 Murder doesn’t stop for Thanksgiving. As the household of NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband Roarke prepares for an invasion of family and friends, an ungrateful son decides to stop the nagging from his parents – by ending their lives. Soon Jerald Reinhold is working his way through anyone who has ever thwarted him in his path to an easy life.

This is the 37th full length offering from J.D. Robb and it does not disappoint. Yet another murderer cutting down people for his own twisted pleasure, but in this story we spend a lot of time inside the murderer’s head as he justifies his actions – what a selfish sick bastard he is. There is no mystery as to who has done the killings, the plot is all about trying to catch him.

This book is much more about the main police story and does not focus so much on the relationships of our favourite characters, although we do get to see Eve and Roarke in their home environment and of course they have sex!  Eve has a big decision to make in this book and comes to an acceptance about herself and her role in the NYPSD.

As always, the author manages to inject emotion into the story and I found myself laughing and crying at some points particularly towards the end when we have Roarke’s entire Irish clan descend, along with some characters from previous books.

It is really difficult to keep coming up with things to say about this series as each book is as good as the last. There is little to no romance in this book, just Eve and her team doing good police work and as always having just a bit of luck – although at times it seems luck is very much with the perpetrator and against Eve.

Overall another great ‘In Death’ story with smatterings of humour that do not detract from the main story and indeed the books would not be the same without the quirks that make up Eve and Roarke’s life.

Book Information
  • Author: J.D. Robb
  • Series: In Death (37)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

 

Cursed Moon

 MAGIC IS A DRUG. IT’LL COST MORE THAN YOU CAN PAY.

When a rare Blue Moon upsets the magical balance in the city, Detective Kate Prospero and her Magical Enforcement colleagues pitch in to help Babylon PD keep the peace. Between potions going haywire and everyone’s emotions running high, every cop in the city is on edge. But the moon’s impact is especially strong for Kate who’s wrestling with guilt over falling off the magic wagon.

After a rogue wizard steals dangerous potions from the local covens, Kate worries their suspect is building a dirty magic bomb. Her team must find the anarchist rogue before the covens catch him, and make sure they defuse the bomb before the Blue Moon deadline. Failure is never an option, but success will require Kate to come clean about her secrets.

So poor Kate is in it up to her neck – secrets, lies, John Volo and Uncle Abe, not to mention the events of the first book threatening to drag her under.  Her promotion to a member of the MEA taskforce is taking its toll on her both personally and professionally.  However, she is trying so hard to make it work and to stay away from magic that my heart goes out to her at every turn.  With the Blue Moon bearing down on them, Babylon is going crazy and she seems to be just one step behind all the time.  Danny, Pen, Baba all think they know what is best for her but do they, especially when she doesn’t know what that is herself.

The task force members continue to grow on me and I especially love Drew Morales, he is so deadpan and sarcastic.  I also love that while there is flirting and heat between Kate and Morales, it’s on a very slow burn and was not a central crux for either Dirty Magic nor this book.  What is developing is trust, understanding and barriers dropping which actually seems more intimate.

Parts of the book are pretty heart-wrenching, with Kate’s best friend Pen breaking down and barriers developing between them.  There are also some very funny moments as well, which balances the book out brilliantly.

The pace is much more even in this second book, now we know how the world works and Kate’s place in it.  The action is pretty full on with the plot being tied to the arrival of the full moon and the threat that is bound up with it.

Some more interesting characters were introduced here – the most notable being Aphrodite, what a perfect creation,  I loved reading the scenes with her/him in it.  I also just realised I forgot to mention Mary and Little Man in the last review but I shall mention them now, as they continued to entertain and become a part of the story.  Again, a brilliant creation that I have come to love (even given the creepiness factor!).

I really loved the ending and the things Kate has come to realise, and I applaud Jaye Wells for her handling of the issues surrounding it.  I don’t think it will be a smooth run for Kate still but it’s a good start, if a little bitter-sweet.

A clever and gripping second book in this series and I can’t wait for the third!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jaye Wells
  • Series: Prospero's War (2)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

 

Dirty Magic

 MAGIC IS A DRUG. BE CAREFUL HOW YOU USE IT.

The Magical Enforcement Agency keeps dirty magic off the streets, but there’s a new blend out there that’s as deadly as it is elusive. When patrol cop Kate Prospero shoots the lead snitch in this crucial case, she’s brought in to explain herself. But the more she learns about the investigation, the more she realises she must secure a spot on the MEA task force.

Especially when she discovers that their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier – on the same day she swore she’d given up dirty magic for good.

I’ve been having a bit of trouble with Urban Fantasy lately in that it all seemed quite similar and nothing was really grabbing me.  I was already a fan of Jaye Wells’ Sabina Kane series, and the back blurb on Dirty Magic seemed a little different, enough to grab my attention and want to give it a go.

It did start a little slowly but it was a new version of our world to build and it was really interesting learning how potions have become part of normal, everyday life alongside conventional medicine.  I thought it was a really clever alternate commentary on how pharmaceuticals have done the same in our reality.  You have clean potions (legal) and dirty potions (illegal) and the alchemy adepts who brew or ‘cook’ them.  Covens instead of drug cartels, but it all results in addicts needing another fix and another dirty potion hitting the streets for those who are looking for the next big thing.  Addicts of clean potions like vanities, youth, weight loss or pain also hits home.

Kate Prospero is an excellent heroine – a former adept with a talent for making magic potions turned cop with a young brother to raise.  I understood her issues and felt for her for trying to make something good out of a life that dealt her a bad hand.  She isn’t a hugely powerful magic user, nor a clairvoyant, vampire etc.  In fact she goes out of her way not to use magic (sometimes a little too far) but for very good reasons (you have to read the book to find out what those are!).  She became a cop in order to balance the scales for what she had to do as a kid and that is where the brilliance of Dirty Magic comes in.  It’s a police procedural as much as an urban fantasy and it works very very well.  Wells’ research was meticulous and having read a lot of crime and thrillers, this was spot on for me.  Obviously the fantastical elements were included and I loved them!

I also thought I could see where the book was going to go when we were introduced very early to Kate’s ex, John Volos – fabulously rich, bad guy turned philanthropist (and I admit I rolled my eyes when I made that cynical snap judgment).  Full credit to Jaye Wells for completely surprising me in that regard!  The team of MEA agents were brilliant too and did much to flesh out the feel of this book – Mesmer and Morales in particular were my favourites but also Gardner for her sarcasm and no nonsense attitude.

I really liked the plot – seemed pretty simple at first but there were several layers to the story and it kept things interesting right to the end. So in spite of the slow start, everything else worked wonderfully and it was a really good book.

If like me, you have become a bit Urban Fantasy jaded – take it from me, this is something different that will really grab you!

Book Information
  • Author: Jaye Wells
  • Series: Prospero's War (1)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★☆