This was one of the top ten picks for our team for SPSFC, and this one had an opening line that really caught my attention since it was snarky, funny, and I had hoped that was what I would get for the rest of the book. Yes, and no.
So, your mileage will vary with this book. I expect people who have read a ton of detective stories or have read a lot of futuristic fantasy many not get a ton out of this. But, for people who really enjoy the tropeyness of detective urban fantasies, and/or haven’t read a ton of it could get a lot from this.
The MC, Detective Holiday, was dismissed from the force following a suicide attempt following a traumatic incident. He’s been invited back as part of a special tasks force when strange murders start popping up but no one knows what’s going on. Since he was once one of the best they ask for him back (this is what I mean by it’s tropey). A woman has been discovered with her throat ripped out… and every molecule of blood is missing, it’s supposed to be scientifically impossible and it has crime scene analysts shaking their heads.
I liked the MC for the most part, I wouldn’t say he’s going to make it onto one of my favorite character lists but I didn’t dislike him, either. He felt very… New York City cop if that gives you any idea. The city he’s in is called “Empire City”, but after the world went to shit and the cities were destroyed, Empire City took its place. But like, same thing basically. He has a tragic backstory and all that, but I wish we could have built up his character a little before we get that backstory. If something is supposed to pack a punch and make you feel for a character, it’s difficult to do that within the first chapter or two. It can be done, but often times I feel things have more of an impact on me if I’ve had time to get to know and get behind a character.
The narrative part of the writing was great, it kept the pace going quick and I was able to finish the audio within a couple days of starting — and I’ve been pretty busy. The dialogue could get on my nerves from time to time because there are info dumps between characters that know each other. One of my pet peeves (which if you’ve followed my reviews for a while you know what’s coming) is when two characters who know each other well recite backstory history about each other to one another. It drives me bananas because it’s clearly just for the reader and I feel there are more natural ways to do things than “let us discuss our life histories in the beginning of the book to set the scene”. There was also a bit of mustache twirly confessions from the villians — again, this is why I said it’s a bit tropey.
My favorite part was the world building. I’m a judge over on SPFBO as well for the fantasy side of this contest, and one of my favorite subgenres is sci-fantasy. I love love love a futuristic science fiction fantasy mashup and this is what that is. It can go wrong quickly though, so it’s a tricky subgenre to write. I felt that this was mostly done to my personal taste with one nitpicky exception, and it’s the present-time references in a futuristic world. If you watch Star Trek, in particular Star Trek Voyager there’s a character named Tom Paris and he’s obsessed with the ‘present time’ in which the show was made. It’s a very common trope in scifi to have a character who likes our timeline and makes frequent references to it — in this instance it was Led Zeppelin among other things. I just always find it jarring. Unless it’s an urban fantasy based in and on our current timeline having pop-culture references interjected into the story is jarring for me. This again is personal taste and your mileage may vary.
Overall I had mixed feelings about this but I can see where many people would have a lot of fun with a snarky cop from New York hunting what could be vampires in a future setting.
6/10 for SPSFC or 3/5 stars on Goodreads