"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Friday, September 17, 2021

City We Became

TITLE:  The City We Became
AUTHOR: N.K. Jemisin

This is a lovely homage to New York City. The opening volume of a planned trilogy introduces the concept that cities can come alive with the assistance of a human avatar/soul. Typically, there is one such person per city being birthed, but New York City has six (primary plus one for each borough), each of whom is brought to life by Jemisin's lyrical prose. They're ethnically and sexually diverse, each with an attitude that is the embodiment of the overall image fitting their home borough. And each of them is unaware of their destiny until the moment New York City comes to life. But a creature from another universe, an old enemy of living cities, is working hard to destroy the city before it can finish the process. 

There are a couple of details that seemed off to me re: New York City, but mostly, Jemisin captured the city, with all its faults and wonderfulness. I like quirky books, the ones that straddle genres and/or explore new concept, or simply ones that defy description and confound expectations. I don't read much fantasy, but I'm looking forward to the rest of this trilogy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Day Ends at Dawn

TITLE:  The Day Ends at Dawn
AUTHOR: David Fulmer

Reading the last book in this series (Valentin St. Cyr Mysteries) felt, to me, like watching the finale to a beloved TV show. My first thought was the hope that the author didn't screw it up. 

As with the other reprint volumes from Crescent City Books, this one was flawed with poor proofing. I wish I had access to the original volumes to compare and see if they were similarly flawed. But the missing words, grammatical errors, and other oopsies didn't hurt my enjoyment of what was a satisfying end for the series.

True, there were some plot points that seemed to really stretch things, but the return of a few characters from past books was worth it. The story is set primarily on the last day of Storyville before that New Orleans Red-Light District is legislated out of existence. On that last night, Valentin and a number of police officers are patrolling Storyville to keep violence that is likely to erupt to a minimum. In addition, Valentin has gathered info about the corruption that fueled the end of Storyville and a hired killer is stalking the District with plans to kill the private detective, but not until striking at the people Valentin cares about.

The tight timeframe leads to some indulgent character scenes that don't advance the story much, while other scenes ratchet up the tension. I was satisfied with the payoff, yet wouldn't mind reading another adventure or two about the early 20th-century Creole detective. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Eclipse Alley

TITLE: Eclipse Alley
AUTHOR: David Fulmer

I really hadn't planned on reading the rest of this series without a break for something else, given that I prefer variety in my reading, but these are rather addictive and fast reads, even with the awful typesetting and proofreading of these later volumes from a second publisher.

In this one, set in 1916, private detective Valentin St. Cyr investigates after a prominent, wealthy man is found dead, his body mutilated, in a dark and notorious alley in Storyville, New Orleans' red-light district. Clues are hard to find, but when a priest is murdered a day later, the hunt is on to find a cunning serial killer.

There are a couple of loose ends left dangling, ones I hope will be tied up by the end of the next and final book in the series.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Iron Angel

TITLE:  The Iron Angel
AUTHOR: David Fulmer

I've been zipping through the remaining books in the Valentin St. Cyr historical mysteries series, and really wish I'd been able to buy the last four titles by the original publisher as I doubt they had all the poor typesetting issues, missing words, extra words, and other problems -- unless I missed something, one character's surname actually changed mid-book! -- that these volumes from Crescent City Books have.

The story was stronger this time than in the previous volume, with Valentin taking on the case of a missing teen while also investigating the brutal murders of prostitutes in the red light district, Storyville, in 1914 New Orleans. None of the scenes felt like filler as in the previous book, and a mysterious older woman with amnesia who becomes a pawn in the escalating feud between Valentin and corrupt police captain Picot ratchets up the suspense. And giving Justine, Valentin's wife, more to do in this book -- she pretty much takes over the missing teen case -- was a nice plus. 

Monday, August 09, 2021

Lost River

TITLE:  Lost River
AUTHOR: David Fulmer

After reading the third Valentin St. Cyr mystery, set in the early 1900s in New Orleans, I found the remaining four books in the series online and quickly ordered them. These trade paperbacks are a bit taller, published by a different press, different than the first three books, and apparently, quality control is not prioritized with regards to typesetting and proofing. Typos, poor scene breaks in a number of spots, extra words, missing words, and other oddities marred this book. 

Another strike against it is typical for many ongoing series when the author has to catch new readers up on character backstories and the events from the previous books. In this case, it comes across as filler and I hope Fulmer found more interesting ways to insert these info dumps in the remaining three titles. In addition, there are brief scenes that seem to have been included to pad the page count as they are little more than a quick check-in with a character without advancing either story or character development.

And yet, once I got to the back half of the book, I found Valentin's latest case as compelling as ever. The case revolves around the murders of three wealthy men found at or in a high level house of prostitution that have one thing in common: they're all owned by the same man. The victims were all shot and each has a long cut on his face. Is a madman on the loose in Storyvill, the red-light district, or is something more sinister at work? Valentin's efforts to solve the mystery and end the killing causes trouble between him and his live-in lover, former prostitute Justine who had thought Valentin was finished with Storyville and its problems.

I'm still enjoying this series, but the feeling of padding and a lack of freshness in the telling keep this from being as good as the earlier three.