Death Cult (Saint Tommy, NYPD #2) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Death Cult
Series: Saint Tommy, NYPD #2
Author: Declan Finn
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 184
Words: 50.5K





Synopsis:

Even though Tommy defeated the demon in the previous book, the cultists who raised it are still at large and very unhappy that Tommy stopped them in their tracks.

Tommy is in the process of moving out from his old house with his family when they are attacked one night by what can only be described as zombies. Tommy realizes the cult is after him and his family and begins investigating.

Once again his investigating brings him into contact with the “Medical Facilities” where abortions are performed, whether the patient wants it or not. Tommy tracks down truck loads of discarded baby bodies which the cultists are using in their satanic rituals, which include eating said babies.

With pressure from the Mayor, Tommy is unsanctioned and has to go after the cult without police backup. Once the cult kidnaps his son, Tommy realizes he can’t wait either. With help from a gang, Tommy and those who believe in his Wonder Worker powers go up against the cult.

Tommy and Co take down the Cult, destroy an idol of Moloch and think they destroy the man who has been creating and controlling the zombies. The book ends with Tommy having a face off with the Mayor and one of the Mayor’s more powerful appointees turns out to be the voodoo man, still very much alive and well.

My Thoughts:

Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Part of my enjoyment stems from the fact that the author seems to really consider just how things would play out in these scenarios. If you stopped a cult, do you think they’d be “Oh, we lost. Good game. Ta ta.” Yeah, I don’t think that either. Finn also shows what an uphill battle Tommy has because of people in power. He also shows that Tommy isn’t living in a vacuum and that his choices affect those around him.

But at the same time, Tommy is never overcome. He trust that God gave him the powers he has for a reason and he’s willing to use them to the fullest extent possible. When his son is kidnapped, Tommy is fully cognizant that to save his son he’s probably going to have to sacrifice his own. Not once does Tommy whine or complain or act like a self-entitled wimp. When things go wrong, he doesn’t blame God nor does he blame those around him. In short, Tommy is the kind of character I like to read about.

The introduction of zombies and the bokor (the person controlling the zombies) being a man of power in the city certainly made sense and also created some future battles. Having destroyed the idol of Moloch, the bokor’s totem of power, you know he’s going to continue going after Tommy and his family. And that is something else that I liked and want to talk about. Tommy never snivels about how he needs to be alone and cut off from his family to protect them. He realizes that he is stronger for being with them AND that part of his duty as a husband and a father is protect them. His wife has several guns, knows how to use them and does so. Tommy’s son has a pistol, is learning krav maga and knows what to do when certain scenarios happen. Tommy and his family have thought through scenarios from each place in their house and have what the proper response is and they practice that. The man is enabling his family instead of crippling them with fear and a “hide and hope for the best” attitude. Oh, I am loving this series just for that. Tommy is a hero and one that I am enjoying reading about.

The action, while not quite as intense as the previous book, is still high and tight. Gun battles are great to read about, that is for sure.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Blood Relation (Arcane Casebook #6) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Blood Relation
Series: Arcane Casebook #6
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 306
Words: 102.5K



Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby, now working on commission for one of the Great Sorcerers, tries to keep his head in the detective game by doing small jobs here and there. He has also hired a small time rune wright who he is teaching to use the finding rune to find lost objects, thus ensuring a steady trickle of business.

A string of gruesome murders start occurring and Alex is called in, as all of the scenes are covered in what appear to be runes. If they are runes, they are a type that Alex has never seen before, nor has Iggy.

German spies attempt to poison Sorsha and Alex and when that fails, to shoot Alex point blank. Sorsha is guarding a political big wig who is in town on secret business.

Turns out that the blood runes and murders are being committed by a man who was gifted much like Alex but then turned on his mentors and lost the ability to use standard runes. As such, he turned to blood magic to stay young and to build his power. Alex defeats him, but no body is found.

Alex also figures out what the secret project is and has to warn Sorsha to prevent the Germans from stealing a flying bomb and destroying half the city.

In the end, Alex has a talk with Moriarty and realizes that the magic Rune book has another whole level that Iggy never found. This opens Alex up to another level of Rune Wright’ery and shows him just how small the knowledge he has is.

My Thoughts:

Once again, I enjoyed myself immensely while reading this. This time around, the two biggest things I enjoyed was the pace wasn’t as frenetic as before (Alex isn’t investigating 7 cases all at once) and the Power Creep slowed down.

Having a Rune Wright be one of the main villains this time around was also refreshing. He shows Alex that magic or even runes, aren’t a monolithic entity, but a fractured puzzle that can be put together in almost infinite number of ways. This has the side effect of allowing Alex to be on a bit more of an equal footing with the likes of Sorsha, his sorceress on again off again girlfriend.

I think my only real issue is how Willis creates characters only to not use them as much as they could be. Danny Pak is the perfect example. He started out as bosom buddies with Alex but he barely gets a mention now. I’m afraid Alex is entering into the “Only I can do anything” zone. I guess I’d like to see more of the side characters fleshed out beyond a name and a function.

Other than that, this review really suffers from “I Like This” syndrome. This was another great book in the series and I enjoyed it. I just can’t muster up much to talk about it. I’m sure you can relate. Willis has been writing this series pretty hard and I am impressed that he’s keeping the quality to what it is. I am looking forward to the next book and we’ll see what the world brings into Alex Lockerby’s life next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rosemary and Rue (October Daye #1) ★☆☆☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Rosemary and Rue
Series: October Daye #1
Author: Seanan McGuire
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 287
Words: 106K



Synopsis:

From October-daye.fandom.com/wiki/Rosemary_and_Rue

Prologue: June 9, 1995

Half-fae changeling October Daye is on a stakeout for her private investigator / knight errant job when she gets a call from her human boyfriend Cliff and Gillian. Simon Torquill appears and Toby follows him to the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park in the hopes of locating the missing Luna and Rayseline Torquill. Simon meets up with Oleander, then turns Toby into a fish when he catches her spying. She is kicked into the koi ponds where she and Lily are trapped and forgotten for fourteen years.

Chapter 1-2: December 23, 2009

Toby regains her true form and seeks help from her longtime friend Evening Winterrose to set up a new human identity. She rejects most of Faerie including Sylvester and her changeling friends Mitch, Stacy, and Kerry, choosing instead to work at Safeway and occasionally offer toothpicks as aid in the local pixies’ territory wars. When Mitch visits the store, she pretends not to know him even though Gillian and his daughter Cassandra used to be playmates.

While heading home from a work shift, Toby is caught by the dawn and her human illusions are forcibly stripped away. Tybalt appears while she recovers from the pain of the magic, and they banter before going their separate ways. She arrives home to find a page of Duke Sylvester’s service waiting with a message, but she refuses to hear it as she has refused all the other messages.

Toby dreams about her mother Amandine, who had been married to Toby’s human father until Toby’s Changeling’s Choice, administered by Sylvester, forced mother and daughter back to the Summerlands. She also dreams of the day she escaped the koi pond and sought Evening’s help to get back on her feet, even as Cliff and Gillian rejected her for abandoning them for fourteen years.

Chapter 3-4: Awoken by her cats Cagney and Lacey, Toby listens to several increasingly frantic voicemails from Evening which culminate in Evening binding Toby to find Evening’s killer right before Toby hears Evening get murdered over the line. Toby drives to Evening’s apartment where she magics the human police into believing she belongs there. She finds splatters of Evening’s blood and the human-like corpse left by the night-haunts. She uses her Daoine Sidhe abilities to taste the blood and relive Evening’s final moments, learning that unidentified attackers killed her with iron bullets.

Chapter 5-7: Toby travels to the Court of the Queen of the Mists to announce the death using the fae’s formal customs, but the semi-mad Queen refuses to believe her. Next Toby goes to Home, an underground community of Changelings led by Devin, who had given refuge to Toby as a teenager after she ran away from Amandine and the Summerlands. Toby confronts teenagers Dare and Manuel before they allow her to see Devin. She recalls her own time as Devin’s lover and lackey, and how she and Devin had argued when Toby started dating Cliff and became pregnant with Gillian. In the present, Devin insists that he would have helped Toby after her return from the pond if Toby had allowed it. He explains that Evening was a benefactor for Home, and he pledges Home’s resources to helping Toby find her killer. In exchange, Toby will be in his debt. Devin encourages her to break ties with Sylvester, since although she won’t talk to Sylvester she is still his sworn knight, but she refuses.

Chapter 8-10: On the way home, Toby encounters a rose goblin who gives her an unmarked key. Evening’s binding tells Toby that the key is important, so Toby next heads to Evening’s mortal place of business, Third Road Enterprises. The binding tells her that the key will “open the way into Goldengreen,” Evening’s knowe. Using the key at the mortal business gives Toby access to the offices and leads her to a hidden hope chest. Toby recognizes that she must hide it, so she makes a bargain with Tybalt to keep it safe. He refuses at first, telling her to take it to the Queen or the Tea Gardens, but then accepts it and puts Toby in his debt.

Chapter 11-12: Although she is exhausted, Evening’s binding uses increasingly painful means to urge Toby to keep hunting the truth. Toby visits Shadowed Hills to inform the Torquills of Evening’s death and to ask for help. She recalls that Sylvester went mad when Luna, Raysel, and Toby all disappeared, and only snapped out of it when his wife and daughter returned to him. Toby’s magical abilities are tested by a footman who makes her design a court outfit with her magic, which adds to her magic burn. Quentin, the page who visited her home earlier, announces her to the Torquills. Sylvester is delighted to see her but shocked by the news of Evening, and more shocked by Toby’s binding to find the killer. As the Torquills mourn Evening’s death, Toby flees to the rose gardens and is followed by Connor, who attempts to make small talk with her but is clearly unhappy in his politically arranged marriage to Rayseline.

Chapter 13: Quentin finds Toby after Connor leaves, and she learns that he is in blind fosterage to Shadowed Hills. She tries to relax his pureblood prejudices and formal mannerisms, and they agree to hang out after things calm down. Sylvester and Luna are upset that Toby indebted herself to Home on her quest, and they reiterate her welcome at Shadowed Hills. She promises to stay in touch.

Chapter 14-16: On her way home, Toby realizes someone is in the car with her and she drives manically to keep them off-kilter. The intruder shoots her with iron and she flees the car, escaping on a city bus that takes her to Golden Gate Park. She tricks the Tea Garden’s gate attendant into letting her in and, growing increasingly weaker, she falls into a koi pond only to be rescued by Tybalt, who brings her to Lily. The Undine heals Toby, then chides her for her apparent death wish before sending her off with Julie and Ross as escorts. The trio are attacked en route to the taxi and Ross is killed. Tybalt kills the attacker and claims he helped so he won’t be stuck with the hope chest.

Chapter 17: Toby is driven home by Danny to find Devin waiting on her doorstep. Devin administers to Toby’s latest wounds and they sleep together, Devin trying to convince her to give up her hunt.

Chapter 18: Toby is fired from Safeway for being no call-no show. She can’t make herself care given everything going on. A doppleganger posing as Gillian visits and attacks Toby, who wants to believe her daughter is ready to make amends. Dare and Manuel come to the rescue and Dare kills the doppleganger with her iron knife, but in the attack Toby is yet again injured.

Chapter 19-20:They take her to Home, where Devin yells at the kids for slacking on guard duty. He tries to persuade Toby to give up her hunt for Evening’s killer, which she physically cannot do even if she wanted to. Dare asks how Toby met Devin, and Toby recalls how he rescued her from the streets as a teenager. She encourages Dare to break free of Devin, but Dare brushes her off. Devin tells Toby that he will send word to Sylvester that she is safe. Toby learns that Devin called in a favor from the Luidaeg to heal her.

Chapter 21: Toby, Manuel, and Dare head to Goldengreen to investigate further. She runs into Connor, who was sent by Sylvester, and discovers that Devin lied about updating the Duke. She makes Connor cut himself to prove he is not another doppelganger, identifying him by the scent of his blood and magic. Toby suggests that Raysel might be the killer, and they again acknowledge their mutual attraction even though Toby refuses to let Connor cheat on Raysel. They realize they are not alone in Goldengreen, and in fleeing they accidentally jump off a cliff into the ocean. Connor uses his selkie abilities to rescue Toby from panic-drowning as she flashes back to the pond.

Chapter 22: Dare and Manuel find them on the shore and they return to Shadowed Hills. Luna agrees to give the teens sanctuary. She also recognizes that Toby has been healed by the Luidaeg and tells Toby she must visit the Luidaeg to learn how to escape Evening’s binding. The rose goblin shows her the way.

Chapter 23: The Luidaeg introduces herself, shows Toby a vision of Maeve’s Firstborn, and identifies herself as one of them. Toby barters Evening’s key for the answers to her questions. She learns that hope chests can turn changelings fully human and that Devin has future plans for Toby. Toby does not ask her final question, which leaves the Luidaeg furiously in her debt.

Chapter 24: Back at home, Toby names the rose goblin Spike; the cats have warily accepted its presence. Toby asks Cagney and Lacey to bring her to Tybalt, being his subjects, and they grudgingly take her to the Court of Cats. She asks Tybalt for the bloody shirt he had worn at the park, and Julie attacks her because she blames Toby for Ross’s death. Tybalt asserts dominance over Julie, gives Toby the shirt, and tells Toby to leave as Julie continues to struggle.

Chapter 26: Toby seeks Lily’s help to reawaken the blood on Tybalt’s shirt. Lily tries unsuccessfully to dissuade Toby from riding the blood, and Toby learns that Devin is Evening’s killer. The binding nearly lulls Toby into a peaceful death, but Lily snaps her out of it. Danny takes Toby to Home where she confronts Devin. He says he killed Evening so he could use the hope chest to become a pureblood. He wishes Toby had come back to him, then orders Manuel to shoot her. Manuel hesitates and he, Dare, Devin, and Toby fight. Devin kills Dare. Manuel kills Devin.

Chapter 27: Sylvester and Shadowed Hills arrive for cleanup. Dare is buried. The hope chest is returned to the Queen, who is now in Toby’s debt. Toby accepts her place in the world of the fae.

My Thoughts:

I had seen several reviewers who were long time fans of this series (it’s up to book 14 or 15 I think?) and from what they had written, it sounded very interesting. I knew this was Urban Fantasy, a genre I have a VERY mixed relationship with, but was hoping it would stay away from the tropes that have driven me away from the genre in general. Unfortunately, as you can tell from the rating I gave the book, this read didn’t work out as I was hoping it would.

This was the very definition of female urban fantasy as far as I’m concerned. Everything that bugs the living daylights out of me about UF was here, in spades.

  • Spunky, full of attitude woman
  • multiple love interests from the past
  • family drama ramped up to 11
  • poor decisions by the main character leading to drama ramped up to 20
  • main character “taking care of herself” even while being rescued by others over and over and over
  • did I mention attitude coupled with bad decisions?
  • Bad Decisions
  • doing things for the good of others without asking them, talking to them about it or in any way seeing if it actually IS good for them
  • alienating family, friends and pretty much anyone who could help in the name of being spunky and full of attitude

And that’s enough for me. I will not read a main character who acts stupidly, gets away with it because of authorial fiat and then gets to call it “I can take care of myself” bullshit. Toby Daye (the titular character’s named shortened obviously) is exactly the kind of character who I hate. Not the kind of character I love to hate, or love to hate and read about, but simply hate.

I hated almost every page I read and seriously thought about DNF’ing this at the 9% mark. I guess I fell into the trap of thinking that this couldn’t possibly stay this bad and so kept reading. By the end, I was seething on the inside, almost frothing on the outside and felt like I had wasted my time. Even Psychic Grandma rattled her chains at me for being so dumb as to go all the way to the end. Considering I never listen to her about her ironing tips, I wasn’t about to start with “reading advice” from her either though.

The only good thing is that at under 300 pages I didn’t invest much time and I can now get rid of the whole series from my tbr list. 13’ish books gone in one fell swoop and able to add another series to my reading rotation.

If the bullet list of things sound like something you’d like, then go for it and may you find more joy than I did.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Hell Spawn (Saint Tommy, NYPD #1) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Hell Spawn
Series: Saint Tommy, NYPD #1
Author: Declan Finn
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 206
Words: 59K



Synopsis:

Tommy Nolan is a detective in New York City. With his wife and young son, Tommy lives within walking distance of his precinct offices. One day Tommy begins to experience some strange things, things he can’t really explain. But that all is washed away when a little girl is murdered right in Tommy’s neighborhood and the killer leaves a personal message for Tommy written in the girl’s blood. Then one of Tommy’s neighbors is murdered in the same fashion. The problem is, Tommy had talked to her on the phone, long after it was possible for her to be alive.

Turn’s out there’s a demon loose in New York City and it has teamed up with a psycho killer who is a discredited medical doctor. Discredited because he experimented on live victims without their consent. Tommy manages to put the perp in jail but the demon’s name is Legion and takes over many of the inmates and causes a riot that even the SWAT can’t put down. Possessed men aren’t too worried about a few paltry bullets or tear gas after all.

Tommy, after getting some backup from his local priest and all the surrounding priests, heads into the prison to confront the demon and exorcise it. He’s a man on a mission from God and begins to experience the powers that Saints throughout history have been recorded as having.

Exorcising the demon gets the prison under control, but Tommy’s life is forever changed as the demon reveals that Tommy has been chosen to be the Patron Saint of Detectives. While this situation has been dealt with, Tommy knows that a righteous man’s work isn’t finished while he has breath in his body.

My Thoughts:

First things first. On Amazon, right in the title, this bills itself as “A Catholic Action Horror Novel”. It certainly is. Considering how other urban fantasy series shove paganism down their readers’ throats without a second thought, I don’t see that being a problem though. Unless you’re a religious bigot that is.

Now, was that a great opening paragraph or what? I was aiming for abrasive and since I bristled at myself when I read it out loud to see how it sounded, I knew I had succeeded. But seriously folks, if you can deal with Dresden or the Iron Druid Chronicles or Jayne Yellowrock or that author Jim Hines, well, you should have zero problems with the views put forth here. Especially if you espouse tolerance as the mainstay of your beliefs.

I enjoyed this a lot. While I have my issues with specific doctrines of Catholicism and even with the whole “Saints” thing, thinking of this as a supernaturally powered cop worked just fine. And it helped that Tommy had to obey some really strict rules that had 1000’s of years of history behind them. Every ability exhibited was one that previous saints had shown, so Tommy isn’t simply pulling power out of his butt. The internal consistency was refreshing. Too many times the rules of urban fantasy seem to get made up as the author goes along, or to not really have any rules beyond “it’s supernatural, we just don’t understand”. While the rules are being revealed to us as readers, they have a deep and abiding history backing them up.

One word of caution however. This is graphic in terms of violence. Finn doesn’t shy away from describing in detail just how the demon possessed man kills his victims. It is really horrific. What is even more horrific is when it is revealed what those killings are based on in real life.

Another thing I did like was the whole family dynamic. Tommy and his wife aren’t having drama to ratchet up the tension. She’s the wife of a cop and knows what that entails. Tommy is teaching his son krav maga so he can defend himself and to help others who are being bullied. His son isn’t a psycho emo goth whatever who Tommy is trying to “connect” with. Tommy is being the dad that every dad should be. It was just great to see a main character being in a stable family. They helped each other instead of draining each other.

Overall, I was very pleased with this read and am looking forward to more in the series. I believe there are currently 7. I know that Finn has also authored several other series. One of them falls squarely into the paranormal romance category though, so even if it too gets the “A Catholic Action Horror Novel” I’ll be avoiding it like the plague.

★★★★☆

Limelight (Arcane Casebook #5) ★★★★☆

limelightThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Limelight
Series: Arcane Casebook #5
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 319
Words: 106.5K

 

Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby is doing well. Business is booming, his clientelle are a lot richer and even the police are giving him a modicum of respect (of course, that might have more to do with Alex being on a first name basis with several of the Sorcerer Six).

A Murder Mystery author dies and Alex’s mentor wants him to investigate as he believes it was murder. This leads into Alex investigating an old case from over 10 years ago about a beautiful stage actress who died on stage but no one was ever convicted. Alex gets his friend Danny Pak assigned to the case, with an understanding from the Captain that if Danny can solve this case, he’ll be promoted to Captain himself. As long as Alex stays in the background.

At the same time, Alex gets dragged into another police case, where Rune Wrights are apparently using runes to blow holes in walls and rob bank vaults. From all that Alex knows, this is impossible. But if something IS happening, then it isn’t impossible and it’s up to Alex as the cities top Rune Wright to figure out what is going on.

Then some inexplicable deaths start happening throughout the city, all of them magic related. In each case, it would appear that the victim had no magical power but died from using magic that went out of control. Alex teams up with Sorsha Kincaid and tracks it down to a substance called Limelight, which seems to give non-magic users magic and to enhance those with the ability already.

And if that is not enough, Alex still has to worry about his new secretary. What is her agenda and is she working for Moriarty, Legion or some other unknown?

If that isn’t enough, by the end of the book we find out another Rune Wright has figured out how to turn electricity into magical power. He’s also figured out how to transfer said power to himself. With the city’s generators at his power, he can become the most powerful Sorcerer the world has ever known.

In the end Danny solves his case, Limelight ties together Alex’s cases, the mad Rune Wright is stopped and the secretary is revealed to be a 3000 year old high priestess. Oh, and Alex is prophecied to be the greatest Rune Wright to ever have lived and possibly be King of All Magic.

 

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this story so while my review might be a tad more critical than the previous Arcane Casebook reviews, please do keep that in mind.

First concern is that Alex is exactly the same as he was in the first book. Now, that could very well be deliberate, as that can be a character type (look at most of the old school noir detectives and even a character like Garrett that Glen Cook writes). Depending on your taste, this will be a bigger or smaller thing. For me, it was a small thing but noticeable. I think I noticed it more because we’re up to book 5?

Secondly, the ramping up of threats and potential. The threat was seriously ramped up in the previous book when Moriarty reveals that another World War is coming and that groups like Legion are already preparing for it. Here, Alex’s potential as The King of Games, errrrr, I mean, Master of Magic is revealed. kingofgames I can’t articulate why this kind of thing is a burr under my saddle but power creep definitely bothers me. Personally, I’d rather Alex have stayed a lower powered Rune Wright and for the author to tell more detective stories than for this world threat to happen.

I do enjoy the mysteries. It is just fun to watch the twists and turns and little sidesteps that happen. I must admit that it is exhausting to keep 3 to 5 different balls in the air and usually by the end of the book I’m ready for some of the special coffee that Alex drinks so much of.

The cover continues to be as fantastic as ever. This time I looked and it is done by someone named Mihaela Voicu. She appears to be a digital artist and I found a bit of her stuff on her facebook page. Probably going to be a shoe-in for July’s Cover Love.

Still highly recommend this series if you feel in the need for a dose of Noir’ish Urban Fantasy Mystery! 😀

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Dead Letter (Arcane Casebook #0) ★★★☆½

deadletter (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dead Letter
Series: Arcane Casebook #0
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 96
Words: 31.2K

 

Synopsis:

In 1930 New York, the sorcerers are the powerhouses of magic and the runwrights are the poor cousins. Private detective Alex Lockerby is definitely in the latter category, plying his meager magic skills to help people the regular cops ignore while barely making ends meet.

What Alex needs is a break. Just one good case to get his name out there and start bringing in business. When ambitious beat cop Danny Pak gets stuck trying to solve a John Doe murder, it might just be the break Alex has been looking for.

As Alex and Danny team up they begin to unravel a tale murder, jealousy, and revenge stretching back over 30 years. A tale powerful forces don’t want to come to light. Now the cop and the private detective must work fast and watch each other’s backs if they hope to catch a killer and live to tell about it.

Alex meets Leslie, Danny and his sister Amy and several of the cops we know from the series.

 

My Thoughts:

I didn’t bother with putting up the conclusion to the “mystery” as it was almost more of a side note that was the vehicle to introduce us to all these various characters.

In that regards, this novella was a complete success. Even while Leslie (the secretary) is leaving the series in book 4, it was still nice to see how she and Alex were introduced. Amy was a fun include, even though she has zero presence in the series. Danny, I have to admit, I was hoping for more of a connection between him and Alex. They came across as just 2 people helping each other out rather than friends, but now that I write that, that is how it comes across in later books as well.

Alex is a loner and while he intersects with other people, he doesn’t seem to need a group of friends. I can totally relate to that 😀

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Mind Games (Arcane Casebook #4) ★★★★☆

mindgames (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Mind Games
Series: Arcane Casebook #4
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 410
Words: 133.2K

Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby, the Rune Wright Detective, is hired by a rich couple to track down their missing daughter. He finds her at with a Night Club Owner and turns the case over to the police. They find the girl in a locked room an return her to her parents. The Club Owner claims they are married and hires Alex to find the marriage certificate. Then the parents are killed with poison and the daughter ends up in the hospital barely surviving. The Night Club Owner’s lawyer hires Alex to prove his client is innocent. Turns out it was all a big con by the daughter to inherit her parents fortune AND take over the Night Club and live the good life off the profits from that.

Alex is also hired by a man whose wife shot a man to death and was caught with the gun in her hands. Unfortunately, she kills herself in the jail cell but the husband wants Alex to prove that she didn’t do it so her good name won’t be besmirched. Alex eventually tracks it all down to the wife having her mind manipulated to kill the man, who was an accountant for a rich man running for Mayor of New York.

Alex is also hired by a local priest to find out where all the Forgotten have gone to, as the mission serving them has noticed a dramatic drop in numbers. The Forgotten are the homeless and out of work from the Great Depression. Alex tracks most of them down to a factory where they are somehow being manipulated to write mass produced runes even while not having the ability.

On his own, Alex notices that a lot of the street Rune Wrights have gone to work for Happy Jack, a company that mass produces books of small runes and sells them at a cost that no street Rune Wright can match. He tracks down the man behind Happy Jacks, a man who has figured out how to add a mind control rune to every rune in a Happy Jacks book of runes. This makes people susceptible to key words spoken by key individuals. This owner is in cahoots with the man running for Mayor and they plan to win the election by making everyone who buys a Happy Jack book vote for said rich man. Alex and Iggy put a stop to that with a warding rune and in the confrontation with the Happy Jack’s owner, Alex is forced to shoot him to death.

Alex and Sorsha the Sorceress track down the man who was responsible for it all, the rune wright. He is taken into FBI custody but reveals to Sorsha that Alex and Iggy have the Archimedean Monograph. Sorsha kills him when she realizes that while it may be true, it is just a way for the man’s confederates to get their hands on it.

While all of this has been going on, Iggy has been researching the Life rune and figures out how to give Alex life essence back. This solves the problem Alex created by giving up decades of his life to rescue the city in the first book.

The book ends with Alex’s secretary leaving the business to get married and a new secretary coming aboard, one who is supposedly clairvoyant but seems to be a spy for somebody.

My Thoughts:

Well, this series continues to peak my interest and keep me coming back for more! Lots of things get wrapped up in this book even while bigger and possibly more evil things are revealed.

First the romance. In the previous book I guessed that Alex would fall in love with Jessica’s daughter. Strike out for me. There is a scene where he meets her but she is too much like her mother for him to handle, so the author makes it clear THAT isn’t going to happen. The secretary is getting married, so she’s out. Considering how much Sorsha and Alex interacted in this book, and the hints that other side characters revealed, my bet is going on Sorsha. I thought that was too obvious, but once again, I strike out. Good thing I’m already married to Mrs B or I’d be a hopeless lunk. Come to think of it, things weren’t so hot for me in the romance department before I met Mrs B, so maybe there’s my answer? 🙂

With the title it is pretty obvious that some sort of mind control rune is behind everything, even while that is supposedly impossible. But Rune Knowledge, much like technical knowledge, is increasing at a frenetic rate. The implications of some of the things Alex learns aren’t really sussed out, but all it takes is just 5 minutes of thought and wham! Rune Wrights with eternal life. Rune Wrights controlling peoples’ minds, even sorcerer’s minds. In fact, when Sorsha gets controlled and tries to kill Alex, that whole sequence was really cool. Goes to show that Alex really does have a brain in his skull.

Now that Alex can live a very long time, this series has potentially moved into the Never Ending Category. At the moment I’m ok with that, as each story has been rather standalone and that works just fine for me. What would kill this for me is if the author starts some huge story arc and makes each book just a part of that instead of telling a complete story in each book. I think we’d also better start seeing some of the rules of Rune Wright’ery. As much as I hate comparing authors, I do believe that Brandon Sanderson has moved the bar up several notches for explaining a magic system since he debuted. I don’t need to know every gritty detail, but a bit more substance to the magic system would be nice. I did find myself asking, several times, what is the correlation between shapes, inks, metals, etc, that a rune wright uses?

In the last book Alex had a rune shotgun, which I thought was just awesome. This time he gets a tommygun. You can see it on the cover. That is just wicked cool looking. That is another thing I’m liking about these books, the covers. They’re wicked attractive but not chintzy glitter crap. While I don’t exactly pick out my books based on covers alone, having a good cover can be that feather that tips the balance in a book’s favor.

The author’s afterward gives the name for the next book, so I’m confident I’ll see it in a couple of months. I’ve also got the prequel novella (which the author is giving away for free) to read, so the end of my enjoyment of this series can be staved off for at least another week.

★★★★☆

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The Long Chain (Arcane Casebook #3) ★★★★☆

longchain (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Long Chain
Series: Arcane Casebook #3
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 343
Words: 111K

 

Synopsis:

From Danwillisauthor.com & Me

In a city the size of New York, things go missing all the time. When a Nobel-Prize winning Chemist vanishes without a trace, his granddaughter taps Alex to find him. Locating people is easy for someone with the best finding rune in the city, but when Alex tracks down the missing man, he has no memory of who he is or what happened to him, and his research is gone.

Convinced that something sinister is afoot, Alex sets out to uncover the truth. Before he can learn anything concrete, however, the city is shrouded in a dense fog and that brings New York’s resident sorceress, Sorsha Kincaid, to his door. She needs Alex’s finding rune in order to trace the source of the unnatural fog, and she has no patience for his other cases.

Alex also is hired by Dr Killian, the Alchemist giving him his reinvigorating potion, to find a missing friend of hers. He gladly accepts, as this will give him more reason to be around Dr Killian’s apprentice Jessica.

Turns out the Chemist is secretly working for the Navy creating a magic fog machine. Only problem is, the compounds he uses are unstable and go up in flames eventually. With the fog covering all of Manhattan, the potential is the fire bombing of the entire city. Alex also uncovers that there is a spy in the Navy trying to sell the fog machine to the Chinese. Alex and Sorsha track down the spy, recover the Chemist’s notebook, which allows the Chemist to shut his machine down without firing New York.

Alex finds the missing Alchemist but along the way discovers some disturbing things about Dr Killian, Jessica and a young girl who appears to be an insane murderer. Dr Killian’s daughter has polio and the cure is in Dr Killians’ blood. She gives 2 vials for safekeeping to Alex, as it turns out she has been taking a lethal alchemical mixture over the years that allows her to grow younger for 12hrs. One of these younger versions is Jessica and the overdosed version is the insane killer. Dr Killian uses up her lifeforce to stop the megalomaniac who has kidnapped the Alchemist and her to free Alex so he can get the blood sample to the daughter.

The book ends with Alex meeting up with the man who was introduced as the Shadow Master in the previous book. The Shadow Master reveals that there is another World War coming and that he expects Alex to use the power of the Archimedean Monograph to prevent it. This Shadow Master gave Alex’s mentor the Monograph so that he could stop the first World War but Iggy deemed the book too dangerous to use. Shadow Master warns Alex not to make the same mistake. He also gives Alex another year of life by infusing him with the lifeforce of 50 pigs and tells him to figure out how it was done so he can continue living. The point being that the Shadow Master has been around for a very long time.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed myself immensely with this book. I really suspected that things weren’t going to work out between Alex and Jessica, but I totally didn’t see it being because of the whole Jekyll/Hyde/MurderGirl thing. I found that to be very clever. Considering that Jessica IS Dr Killian and Dr Killian’s daughter is probably a bit younger than Alex, it would not surprise me if she gets cured by the polio potion and becomes Alex’s love interest. I’ll just have to wait and see. Sorsha is too obvious a candidate.

I do have to admit that I was glad at the end of the book that Alex is shown that life extension runes are possible, as it was getting a little old throughout the book of him wondering when he was going to die. If it had been me writing though, I would have had him die soon after Dr Killian, lovers united in death and all that.

I’ve really been enjoying the “standalone” nature of each of these books. Several cases all tying into each other but completely wrapped up by books end. That formula starts to unravel with the ending of this book and the Shadow Master revealing himself and his plans to Alex. It has the potential to be a really good thing for the series but personally, I hope Willis stays to the Standalone side of things.

I have been enjoying this series this month and while I can’t unreservedly recommend it, I do highly recommend it. I think the fact that I chose to break my reading rotation to chow down on these says more than anything I could actually write.

★★★★☆

 

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Ghost of a Chance (Arcane Casebook #2) ★★★★☆

ghostofachance (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Ghost of a Chance
Series: Arcane Casebook #2
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 361
Words: 117K

 

Synopsis:

From Danwillisauthor.com & Me

When a bizarre string of locked-room murders terrorize New York, the police reluctantly turn to their magical consultant, private detective Alex Lockerby, to catch a killer who can walk through walls.  Dubbed the Ghost by the tabloids, Alex will need every rune in his book to solve the case with no suspects, no leads, and no time to spare.

Unfortunately Alex’s magic hasn’t been working very well of late.  He can’t even manage to track down several truckloads of stolen goods, including one belonging to New York’s preeminent sorcerer, Andrew Barton.  To make matters worse, Alex and his clients are being stalked by a shadowy cabal with strange powers that Alex has never seen before.

With the Ghost seemingly able to murder at will and the tabloids, the public, and Alex’s clients demanding results, Alex will need a miracle to keep himself, his clients, and his reputation alive.

Alex also has to deal with the effects of his Escape Rune from the previous book that has shaved an unknown number of years off of his lifespan. Iggy, his mentor, puts him in touch with an alchemist and Alex gets involved with her apprentice.

All of the cases are almost tied together, as the Ghost turns out to be a man killing the group of people who cheated him out of his land years ago, land which could have been sold to raise money to save his wife. Barton’s missing motor is linked to a group that wants to steal a literal boatload of gold in a museum and the presence of Mayan Runes are revealed. The same shadowy Man of Mystery is the one supplying both groups with Mayan runes that allow them to do the extraordinary things they do.

Alex solves everything, gets a lot of money and publicity, thinks Jessica (the assistant alchemist) might be the One and both Alex and Iggy wonder who the Shadow Master is.

 

My Thoughts:

This was fun! I think what I liked the most was that the author makes what Alex does at the end of the first book (using the Escape Rune) really matter here. He’s not just shrugging off a broken leg or something. He’s lost years, possibly decades, of his life and it’s showing. His hair is white, he doesn’t have the energy and strength he used to, his hands shake (which for a rune wright is disastrous) and generally he’s “old”.

Getting introduced to another Sorcerer was interesting and I’m glad we’re not stuck on Sorsha. With him getting interested in Jessica though, we’ll see what happens between him and Sorsha. Jessica seems a bit too absorbed in her work for something to work out long term with Alex. I just hope the author doesn’t go into Triangle Territory. And honestly, deep characterization isn’t his forte.

The multiple mysteries were just as fast and furious as in the first book. I’d prepared myself though, so it didn’t overwhelm me. I still found myself wishing that one or more had been cut and a greater depth given to the remaining ones. That’s not even really a complaint, just more of a “wish”.

I liked this even more than the first book and have the 3rd and 4th books already lined up. I’m really glad that Larry Correia recommended this author to his fans, as it has turned out to be a huge hit with me. It shouldn’t have, as urban fantasy set in an alternate 1930’s isn’t my thing, but I guess just like the Grimnoir Chronicles, if it is done exactly right, it hits me like a ton of bricks. And I love every brick hitting me!

Finally, the covers. The author has some high res covers on his website and while I’m not using them for these reviews, I can already tell they are going to win all the Cover Love awards at the end of the month. I think the real decision will be whether I include them all or try to pick the best of the bunch. I’ve included a link to the high res cover. But come on, a rune infested shotgun, suspenders and a burning rune? And I wish my chin and hair looked like that. High Res Cover.

★★★★☆

 

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In Plain Sight (Arcane Casebook #1) ★★★☆½

inplainsight (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: In Plain Sight
Series: Arcane Casebook #1
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 301
Words: 90.3K

 

Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby is a Private Investigator in the 1930’s, an alternate 1930’s, where magic is real. Alex himself is a Runewright, someone capable of drawing runes and powering them. Alex was orphaned and brought up in a local church ministry and he still has strong ties to the priest that helped raise him. Alex also helps out the police as a consultant, when they’re willing to pay.

The book opens with Alex declaring a dead body to be a murder and that the murderers can be caught at a highly secure facility in a day or two as they attempt to rob it. The next day Alex finds out the priest is dead along with everyone in the rectory. Some sort of magic plague was loosed and the police and the FBI want the perpetrators found before they loose the plague on a high profile case. Alex also takes on a case of a missing brother for an attractive brunette and finds out that the brother was researching new runes.

In a nutshell, Alex sleeps with the brunette, finds out she isn’t the missing man’s sister, tracks down the plague carriers and solves the case of the first murder victim. Everything ties together and comes together in big kablam’y fashion as German Agents are trying to kill some of New Yorks’ finest wizards to start a war in the United States between magic users and non-magic users. He ends up using a rune to save the city from a (non)floating Wizard’s Keep and possibly loses decades of his life. He also finds out that his mentor, a private detective who taught Alex everything he knows, has the forbidden book of magic that most new runes come from. Also turns out his mentor is Arthur Conan Doyle, who faked his death to throw those seeking out the forbidden tome off his trail.

Alex agrees to forget the tome of power and just be a magical PI.

 

My Thoughts:

For a book that is urban fantasy AND taking place in the 1920-1930’s, I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. I was introduced to this book by a post from Larry Correia. He occasionally does a Book Bomb where he promotes a book of a friend or a new’ish author whose work he likes and encourages all his readers to go buy a kindle copy to push the stats of the book up and make the author more visible. He has done it enough that I guess it works. It worked for me and I managed to snag a copy for 99cents, so I’m not complaining. Especially when I had a digital coupon for 99cents!

As soon as the brunette showed up I knew Alex was going to sleep with her. It’s what detective do I guess. Of course, him deducing that she wasn’t a real brunette from that experience and that leading him to figure out she wasn’t the missing man’s sister had me rolling my eyes. Not to be crass, but just because your pubic hair doesn’t match the color of your hair on your head doesn’t mean you dye your hair. Sigh. Biology, people!

Other than that, this was a fun romp filled with mystery and adventure. Having 3 cases all at once was a bit much but it kept the book from ever bogging down, as any time Alex had downtime from one case he had to immediately continue working on the other two. While I wasn’t exhausted by the end of the book, I “felt” tired 🙂

How runes work isn’t gone into in exhaustive detail. That might be off-putting for some people but for me it was perfect. I just want to know that something works, that there ARE rules and that the character can’t break those rules without consequences. As long as the author doesn’t have Alex pulling rabbits out of his butt to save the day, I’m ok with vague rules of magic. A bit of mystery is a good thing.

I enjoyed this book enough to seek out the next 3. I plan on binge reading them all this month, along with the Hall of Fame SF collections, just to break up my reading rotation. Planned shake ups are much better than suddenly going off the reservation and crashing and burning. Here’s to hoping the next books are just as interesting.

★★★☆½

 

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