Capital Murder (Arcane Casebook #7) ★★★★☆

Capital Murder

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: Capital Murder
Series: Arcane Casebook #7
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 336
Words: 110K





Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby gets snagged into going to Washington, DC (the capital of the United States of America) with one of the Sorcerous Six. Of course, he immediately gets sucked into multiple investigations, all of which are “Top Priority” by the clients.

Then it turns out his girlfriend Sorsha is involved in one of the cases and the papers are publicly speculating that she can’t solve it without Alex’s help. As a top FBI agent, this doesn’t sit well with her. Placing more strain on an already irregular relationship, Alex and Sorsha have to figure out if they can both have their careers and each other.

The main case ends up involving The Legion, a secret society of Runewrights dedicated to Evil, wanting to abscond with a whole military base’s worth of secret runewright papers. They partially succeed but Alex manages to stop the majority. In doing so, he gets a target on his back from the Legion and the book ends with Sorsha in a coma and an up and coming Legion member preparing to hunt Alex down.

My Thoughts:

Another thoroughly enjoyable entry in the Arcane Casebook series. As convoluted, over the top and larger than life as usual, this hit all the points that continue to intrigue me about this series.

I do hope that Willis can slow down the pace here a bit. Alternate World War II is looming and it’s obvious Runewrights will be largely involved. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I don’t like intensive ramping up of the plot “just because”.

Sorsha and Alex’s relationship hits the skids and while they haven’t broken up and have decided to really make it work, they haven’t addressed the issues that are causing the problems in the first place. I’m concerned that Willis will treat it shallowly. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the series is pretty light but you can’t treat a heavy subject lightly without a disconcerting dichotomy in your literary tone.

Willis is really churning these out and I’m pretty happy at the pace he’s setting. Book 8 is already scheduled for April of ’22. Yee-haw!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

ps,
the bleeping editor has changed YET AGAIN. I hate wordpress for their continual messing about under the skirts. Having to re-learn the damnable block editor every couple of weeks or months, it’s too much. I need stability in my blogging platform.

Noir Fatale ★★★★☆


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: Noir Fatale
Editors: Larry Correia & Kacey Ezell
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 296
Words: 120.5K



Synopsis:

A collection of short stories that are all femme fatale themed in some or other. Here is the table of contents, ie, the list of stories with their authors:

AIN’T NO SUNSHINE: Christopher L. Smith and Michael J. Ferguson

RECRUITING EXERCISE: David Weber

SPOILS OF WAR: Kacey Ezell

THE PRIVILEGES OF VIOLENCE: Steve Diamond

A GODDESS IN RED: Griffin Barber

KURO: Hinkley Correia

SWEET SEDUCTION: Laurell K. Hamilton

A STRING OF PEARLS: Alistair Kimble

HONEY FALL: Sarah A. Hoyt

THREE KATES: Mike Massa

WORTH THE SCARS OF DYING: Patrick M. Tracy

THE FROST QUEEN: Robert Buettner

BOMBSHELL: Larry Correia

My Thoughts:

At 4stars, I obviously enjoyed this. Unfortunately, much like in Correia’s Monster Hunter Files, there was ONE story that just annoyed the viss and pinegar out of me. So let me get that out of the way then I’ll go into all the good stuff.

Exactly like MHF, there was one urban fantasy story from a long running series. Unlike Jane Yellowrock, Anita Blake managed to annoy me in a new way. Where Jane was an asshole with an attitude, Blake was a completely competent, beautiful and “everything else” woman, with such huge inadequacy issues that THEY were as big as Yellowrock’s attitude. You want to write that in your novels, to your target audience of women, go for it. But packing in a whole novels worth of feelings of inadequacy into a short story? While I was never going to read anything by Hamilton anyway, that story cemented that determination. It was well written, I actually liked the premise, but my goodness, the “feelinz” just about made me gag.

The other stories on the other hand, I pretty much enjoyed across the board. My favorite though, was the one by Correia. It is a Grimnoir story set in the 1950’s and my guess is it is being used like Detroit Christmas was, ie, to introduce the main character of the new Grimnoir trilogy that Correia has promised is on its way. Grimnoir Chronicles is my favorite by Correia and once the new trilogy is completed, I’ll re-read the original and dive into the new. I am very excited about that prospect, even if it is years down the road. I’ve waited this long, I can wait some more.

Each story has a femme in some sort of pivotal role. Not always front and center, but without them, the story would simply fall apart. I’d never heard of Ezell before, but after this I’ll probably go check out what else she has written to see if it aligns with my tastes. She was the driving force behind this anthology and since I enjoyed it so much I’m hoping I like her full length novels.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Auxiliary: London 2039 ★★☆☆☆


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: Auxiliary: London 2039
Series: ———-
Author: John Richter
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 242
Words: 68K



Synopsis:

Carl Dremmler is one of the few remaining human detectives left on the police force in London 2039. Investigating cases where people have died from staying in virtual reality too long, whether on purpose or not. However, one case gets the interest of his boss. A man with an artificial arm murders his girlfriend and claims he didn’t do it, that the arm did it, against his will.

Dremmler begins running down the rabbit hole trying to prove that the unhackable TIM (the AI running everything) was hacked. This brings him into contact with some other corporations that are trying to create their own versions of TIM and robots that are indistinguishable from humans. Forced to rely on TIM from everything from giving him rides in podcars to opening his own door, Carl is pretty much an Auxiliary indeed.

Then he gets a break from an anti-robot commune that his wife joined years ago, where their daughter died and whose leader Carl would gladly kill with his bare hands. His wife has some info and Carl has to infiltrate the commune to get it. He’s caught, things start to go bad, then killer drones show up and start slaughtering everyone, all on Carl’s boss’s command. Carl and his wife flee and they separate for safety’s sake. Carl goes to his boss’s house to confront her only to find her corpse, which from its condition, has been a corpse since BEFORE Carl started the investigation.

Carl realizes TIM has other plans and before he can escape, he hears the scuttling of killer rat robots behind him. The End.

My Thoughts:

This book’s rating is very much of the “I hated it” variety than the “this was a poorly constructed and badly written book”. It was well written and for what it’s worth, engaging.

However, between what I talked about in my Currently Reading post, the general malaise of the human spirit and the outright horrible ending, I couldn’t recommend this book, not at all. I’ve added Richter to my list of authors to avoid on general principle.

Nothing is unhackable. Nothing is proof against human distortion and manipulation. AI “life” will never be a thing. If there had been a human behind everything at the end of the story, it would have ameliorated some of the issues. I guess the whole point of the book was the death of the human race by slow degrees and so that kind of ending wouldn’t have fit. But for every Sherlock there is a Moriarty and for every Moriarty, there is a Sherlock. This book was lacking one of those.

If you are a fan of nihilism by robot and the degradation of the human spirit in every regard, then by all means, dive into this book and enjoy.

Rating: 2 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.

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! 😀

★★★★☆

 

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Sword-edged Blonde (Eddie LaCrosse #1) ★★★☆☆

swordedgedblonde (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: Sword-edged Blonde
Series: Eddie LaCrosse #1
Author: Alex Bledso
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 320
Words: 82K

 

Synopsis:

Eddie LaCrosse is a sword jockey, ie, a private detective. He’s hired by his childhood friend King Phil to prove that King Phil’s wife didn’t kill and then eat their newborn baby.

Along the way Eddie has to revisit his past and the reason he left the kingdom that Phil now rules.

Eddie solves the case, vindicates Phil’s faith in his wife, takes down an evil dwarf that has been alive over 500 years and finds the love of his life prophesied about over 10 years ago.

 

My Thoughts:

While I was reading this I was fully into the story and enjoying it. However, once the story ended and I began thinking about what I had read, a couple of things came to the forefront for me.

First, I am reading more and more noir’ish Private Eye books. What’s more, I am generally liking them too. The Grimnoir, The Arcane Casebook, Garrett PI, etc. The thing is, those all have elements of the PI AND some other element (urban fantasy, fantasy). This, though, only gave lip service to the fantasy element. The only fantastic thing was that the wife of King Phillip used to be a goddess and that the evil dwarf was actually just a human who had messed with the goddess and been punished. That’s it. No other races, no magic spells, no grimoires, not even one magic sword. Not cool.

In conjunction with that was the deliberate anachronisms that the author uses. Between names of people that you’d expect to meet on the street today, to terms about weapons and businesses that fully belong in the 21st century, Bledsoe kept pulling me out of the story. It was obviously deliberate and meant as some sort of selling point to distinguish the series but it did not work for me one tiny bit.

I’ve been debating about whether to keep on with the series. Like I said, while I was reading I was enjoying, but the moment I stopped, well, it all came crashing down. And it wasn’t like I was enjoying the read on a Neal Asher level. This was a grocery store frozen cheese pizza kind of enjoyment. With that, I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series. There are so many other books I can try out (and hopefully enjoy more) that it isn’t worth continuing this “just because I didn’t hate it”.

★★★☆☆

 

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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

 

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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.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)