Random (but not really)

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Categorical Books: Supernatural Mysteries

This may be my favorite category of books. I love mysteries and I love fantasy, so combining the two is all, “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter” levels of goodness.

I’m going to split these into two categories: our world where magic is hidden, and like our world except there is magic.

Midnight RiotWe’ll start with one of my current favorites: Ben Aaronovitch‘s Rivers of London series. This is a police procedural where a secret department exists to keep the supernatural hidden and under control. And it is full of procedure; Peter Grant loves to complain about many ridiculous rules and regulations there are, and also about 21st century policing speak, which is a DELIGHT. Peter is very much NOT super hero material. He’s very smart, but he is also very easily distracted, which quite often gets him into trouble. Also, the narration by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith makes me swoon.

“You can’t die of jazz,” said Dr. Walid. “Can you?”

I thought of Fats Navarro, Billie Holiday, and Charlie parker who, when he died, was mistaken by a coroner for a man twice his real age.

“You know,” I said, “I think you’ll find you can.”

  

Paul Cornell‘s Shadow Police series is one of the more amazing supernatural mysteries I’d read in a long time. It is really REALLY dark and a lot of terrible things happen, but I really REALLY wish he’d write another book in the series. This is an ensemble story, shifting POV back and forth between the various characters, and initially I had trouble keeping track of who was who (especially since two characters were undercover cops) but I did get it sorted and tore through each book. But this IS really dark, so it may well not be for everyone.

“Don’t ever be afraid of the responsibility of offering an opinion.”

  

Charlie Adhara Big Bad Wolf is an LGBT series where the main character is a human who has been moved to the BSI–the law enforcement group that deals with werewolf crime and keeping werewolves secret. He was transferred there after surviving a werewolf attack, and ends up partnered with a werewolf. They two are looking for a possible serial killer and have to deal with their very different world views AND a strong attraction. This is definitely a boinking book, but the mystery is good, I liked the characters, and the world building is excellent.

The public could never know about werewolves, though. That was one of the few things the BSI and the Trust agreed on. The panic, the prejudice, the senseless violence that would surely come if the truth was revealed.

  

Nicole Kimberling‘s Grilled Cheese and Goblins is an LGBT procedural where the main character is a supernatural food inspector. That’s one of the things I liked best about these collection of stories / novellas: that the main character is not in a job you ever think about, yet that is important. There is boinking here, so take that into consideration if boinking isn’t your thing.

On the day that Gunther had moved in with Keith, she had taken Keith aside and pressed a small spiral notebook into his hand. Written on the pages were her precious, famous and well-guarded recipes for goblin favorites such as Cracked Hot-Pepper Marrow Bones, Sheep Skull Surprise (the surprise turned out to be extra eyeballs sewn into the sheep’s mouth), and Goblin-style Pig Trotters, which were traditionally served raw in a bowl of vinegar, and garnished with whole bulbs of garlic cut crosswise and seared on the edge of a heated scimitar. On the first page of the notebook she’d made a special note that Gunther, like all goblins, was sensitive to salt and could only abide the smallest amount on special occasions. Then she’d drawn a little, anatomically-correct heart.

  

The-Grendel-AffairLisa Shearin‘s SPI Files is another book where a secret agency exists to monitor and police the supernatural world that remains hidden from most of humanity. The heroine, Mac, is a seer in the NYC office, and although she has a rare skill, she is almost always the weakest member at any scene (since she has no other strengths or abilities). Her recognition of that weakness is one of my favorite things about her (and the series) since she has to work around her limitations. This series is on the lighter side as far as tone, but the mysteries are interesting and the characters are wonderful.

Being able to clear a line of beer cans from an old washer would never save anyone’s life, and I’d never actually heard of a deer taking a hunter hostage and using him as a shield while being hoisted into a helicopter. So I could hit a target. Big deal. That didn’t teach me when to shoot, when to hold my fire; or if I did shoot, the why and how of that decision, a split-second choice that could mean life or death for another SPI agent, me, or a friend who was in the right place but at the worst time.

  

Simon R. Green‘s Nightside series is most definitely not for everyone. But if it is your thing, then it is REALLY your thing. John Taylor is a PI that specializes in finding things–and staying the hell out of Nightside, where nightmares live and it is always three AM. But he’s drawn back in and over the course of the series discovers who has been trying to kill him since he was a child, who his mother is, and perhaps just what Nightside is. (hint: nothing good.) There is a lot of awful stuff, but it is so over the top ridiculous very little of it bothers me. Mostly because the majority of people in the Nightside are there voluntarily.

Next door to the brothel was a dark and spooky little shop selling reliquaries–the bones of saints, fragments of the True Cross, and the like. Special offer that week was apparently the skull of John the Baptist. Next to it was a smaller skull, labelled JOHN THE BAPTIST AS A CHILD.

  

Daniel O’Malley books The Rook and Stiletto are set mostly in London, and are another series where a secret agency polices the supernatural–or rather, the unnatural, since most of the characters have unique skills and talents that are not replicable. The main character awakens with no memory of who she is or how she ended up surrounded by dead bodies, so the story is her discovering not just who tried to kill her, but how to manage her position in this supernatural agency she remembers nothing about. I’ve read and listened to those multiple times, it’s so delightful.

Dear You,

The body you are wearing used to be mine. The scar on the inner left thigh is there because I fell out of a tree and impaled my leg at the age of nine. The filling in the far left tooth on the top is a result of my avoiding the dentist for four years. But you probably care little about this body’s past. After all, I’m writing this letter for you to read in the future. Perhaps you are wondering why anyone would do such a thing. The answer is both simple and complicated. The simple answer is because I knew it would be necessary.

The complicated answer could take a little more time.

Do you know the name of the body you are in? It’s Myfanwy. Myfanwy Alice Thomas. I would say that it’s my name, but you’ve got the body now, so I suppose you’ll be using it.

  

P.N. Elrod‘s Vampire Files series is one I really wish was available in electronic format. It’s set in the 1930s and reads like a noir detective series, but with one of the detectives being a vampire. It’s a fun series, but good luck getting your hands on the various books.

  

Liz Williams‘s Detective Inspector Chen series is set in a world that is mostly like ours, but with slightly more advanced technologies, and direct connections between earth and heaven and hell. Except that it’s the Buddhist heaven and hell, which makes it all the more fascinating. Chen is on the outs with his patron goddess, and has a lovely life who remains mostly hidden from public. These stories are very different from anything else I’ve read, and I like them very much.

The trouble with Hell, Zhu Irzh reflected bitterly, was not so much the palpable miasma of evil (with which he was, after all, ingrained) but the bureaucracy.

  

Jaye Wells Prospero’s War is set in world parallel to ours, only with magic. Kate Prospero is a cop who grew up cooking dirty magic, and now works for the police helping stamp out dangerous and illegal spells. The world building and mystery aren’t quite as strong on this series, but the books are still enjoyable.

“Ah c’mon. I didn’t do nothin’.”

I raised a brow. “You flashed a weapon at an officer.”

“Ah man! I didn’t know you was a cop. Thought you was just an uppity bitch.”

“As it happens, I’m both. Do not move.”

  


Mark del Franco‘s Connor Grey and Laura Blackstone are in a world where faerie has merged with “our world” and it’s a problem for all involved. Connor Gray was a powerful druid until an attack left him unable to use most of his powers. I really liked the world building here, and I wonder why the author just stopped writing, because it was an interesting series doing things I wasn’t reading anywhere else.

  

Justin Gustainis‘s Occult Crimes Unit series is a bit on the darker side. Stan Markowski is a detective in Scranton’s Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit, and he and his partner look into crimes not just by witches and vampires, but also committed against supernatural creatures. This series also has some really horrible covers but some great characters.

I once asked a warlock why spells contain all those “thee”s and “thou”s, and other stuff that nobody says anymore.

“When it comes to theory, no one is more conservative or fundamentalist as a magician,” he’d told me. “It would make Southern Baptists look wild, by comparison. Lots of the spells in use today were first translated into English in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when people did talk like that. The belief is, if a spell works, you don’t mess with it, even to update the language. You’d never know what effect even the smallest change would have – until it was too late.”

  

Angel Martinez‘s Offbeat Crimes series is an LGBT supernatural police series and it has some of my favorite world building I’ve come across in recent years. She also does an excellent job writing strong characters–enough to the point that I didn’t care for one of the books because the main character irritated the crap out of me. There is a LOT of boinking here, but if you can deal with that, it’s a very fun series.

“Should get an Odo bucket,” Vikash murmured.

“A what?”

Kyle chuckled into his coffee. “Seriously, Carr? You never watched Deep Space Nine?

  

Glen Cook‘s Garrett, P.I. series is set in a straight up fantasy world, with dwarves and elves etc. I’ve only read a few books in this series, mostly because that’s all I could find. This is also on my TBRR / TBR pile

  

I read several books in Mario Acevedo Felix Gomez series and although I didn’t dislike them, I didn’t like them enough to keep reading.

I read quite a few of Jim ButcherDresden Files books, but a cliffhanger ending clarified that I probably had been done with the series a couple books prior.

Before you mention it, I did NOT like J.D. Robb naked series.

As this is one of my favorite genres (sub genres?) I’ll welcome all recommendations, because this is My Catnip.

Categorical Books

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