I should have been looking for a Comfort Read for last Christmas. But this past Christmas bore no resemblance whatsoever to any other Christmas in living memory (in a word, it sucked), so I drifted with my whim and landed almost randomly on this book on the Kindle. I figured I’d start it and see how it went.
How it went was almost in one sitting. I was hooked quickly and dragged along for the ride. And it was quite a ride.
Taken separately, the component parts of this book aren’t promising. The main characters are a tough-as-nails-here-I’ll-prove-it 28-year-old female London copper, Pete Connelly (if I told you what Pete is short for she’d kill me) and Jack Winter, former punk rock singer, current junkie, and all-around (*pause to review possible epithets for one clean enough for a review*) Grade-A jerk. The story is different from other urban fantasies I’ve read, though there are elements that ring all kinds of Dresden-esque and Peter-Grant-esque bells (like the ability of the heroes to withstand a horrific amount of physical pan and abuse and come out of it making smart-ass remarks). One thing this book (this series, I’m finding) has that the others don’t is language. By which I do not mean skilful use of adjective or metaphor or turn of phrase; all three series do have that to one degree or another. No, what Street Magic has that the others don’t, quite, is sheer unadulterated potty mouth. I’m not unduly sensitive to filthy language – heaven knows my mouth in these past few months especially, as the universe has consistently showed me its heel, has been worthy of an Orbit gum commercial. But even at my worst I don’t think I’ve used the f-bomb quite as often and as creatively as it is used by the characters here. And I definitely haven’t used the (not to be coy, but I don’t choose to ever use the word) “c-word” … and if I did it wouldn’t be in every other sentence, and probably not referring to male characters…. I still find that odd. And there’s plenty more besides … It’s a little like sandpaper on the eyeballs.
Still. Despite all of this, I found myself completely involved. I like Pete. I even like Jack – and I feel for him, and want him to be ok. More, I want to know how it is that he reappears in Pete’s life after twelve years. I wanted to know how it was going to come back to, literally, haunt her.
It all begins with a missing child. Kidnapped children are rarely going to return home the same as they used to be, but this situation is something else again. Much as Pete wants to deny it, there is more than just a human psycho involved in this – there’s a supernatural agency at work, and that is going to take even more explaining away than her confidential informant is.
And that there is one of the problems with the book. When the sh – er, when everything hits the fan, it demands Pete’s time, at the expense of her official duties. Her partner has to do some heavy-duty covering up for her, and for the most part without knowing what he’s covering up, and it’s all handled a bit more casually than it ought to be – by Pete, by her partner, and by her superiors. Or maybe not, considering the second book.
Still, the setting was great; the Big Bad is both very big and very bad, with a few elements that were thoroughly chilling. And while I admit I have a soft spot for the classic Knight in Shining Armor hero, reading about protagonists as thoroughly messed up as these two are is a gritty dose of realism, and – since I can close the book and not worry about the pain or odors et cetera – a strangely refreshing change of pace. Not for everyday, this – more like the grungy, tattered outfit you dig out of your closet when you’re headed to a punk rock concert.
Not that I’ve ever been to a punk rock concert.
Or ever will.
But now I know what one is like.