Simon R. Green: Something From the Nightside (2003)

Something From the Nightside

The Nightside is really just like any other major city, only amplified, intensified, like the city streets we walk in dreams and nightmares.

If Chandler’s Marlowe had been investigating paranormal crime, he’d probably be a lot like John Taylor, the hard-boiled PI from Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. While Harry Dresden, Jim Butcher’s PI, is currently the most famous psychic or occult detective, I decided to read Something From the Nightside before finally trying my first book of the Dresden Files. Both PI’s have their fan base but as long as I haven’t read anything else but a few short stories featuring Harry Dresden, I cannot compare. For the time being, I really like John Taylor.

One afternoon a beautiful woman knocks on John Taylor’s office door. Taylor is surprised. He is a luckless PI with fewer cases than a beginner, so he thinks that if anyone wants to hire him, there must be a catch. He is right. Joanna Barrett’s daughter went missing. But not in London. She went missing in the Nightside, the dark, mysterious, dangerous otherworldly heart of London. A place John Taylor has left and sworn to never return to. Why? Well, he has his reasons but he won’t tell. If he wasn’t in a precarious situation, he would never accept to help Joanna Barrett but he’s broke, so what can he do?

The story is a tale of paranormal crime, structured as portal/quest story which is very interesting. The Nightside can only be accessed through a portal hidden in the London underground tunnels.

It’s always night in the Nightside. It’s always three o’clock in the morning and the dawn never comes. People are always coming and going, drawn by needs that dare not speak their names, searching for pleasures and services, unforgivable in the sane daylight world. You can buy or sell anything in the Nightside, and no-one asks questions. No-one cares. There’s a nightclub where you can pay to see a fallen angel forever burning inside a pentacle drawn in baby’s blood. Or a decapitated goat’s head, that can tell the future in enigmatic verses of perfect iambic pentameter. There is a room where silence is caged, and colors are forbidden, and another where a dead nun will show you her stigmata, for the right price….

Crimes that are committed in the Nightside, are more gruesome than anywhere else in the world. People are crazy, addicted, deranged and evil. That’s why John Taylor left the place. That and because people want him dead which has something to do with his mother and what he inherited from her. Unfortunately John doesn’t know his mother and what she was.

Once in the Nightside, Joanna and John follow every lead they can find, interrogate people, fight monsters. They meet some extraordinary characters in the Nightside. Shotgun Suzie and Razor Eddie are just two of them. Both have their names for a reasons. They visit sleazy bars and derelict houses, travel into the future and back again.

Green’s imagination is quirky and amusing. The ideas he comes up with are a lot of fun. And I loved John Taylor’s voice, his sarcasm and macabre humour.

Maybe I will end up liking Harry Dresden more but for the time being, I really enjoyed the paranormal noir story Simon R. Green has concocted in Something from the Nightside. I may very well read the next volume as well.

Carrie Vaughn: Kitty and the Midnight Hour (2005)

kitty 1

As regular readers of this blog know, I have a weakness for urban fantasy and I like to start new series. Often I stop reading them after volume 2 or 3 but that doesn’t matter much.

I’ve read a lot of good things about Carrie Vaughn’s  Kitty Norville series and thought I give it a try and read the first book in the series Kitty and the Midnight Hour. I didn’t regret it, it’s a breezy, fun read with a lot of elements which are typical in urban fantasy or paranormal crime but also infused with a nice dose of originality.

Kitty has two important features. She’s a radio DJ and she is a werewolf. Usually she works the night or rather the midnight shift at the radio station. It isn’t the most popular show until she has the uncanny idea to transform it in a late-night advice show for supernatural beings. Who would have thought that there are so many vampires, werewolves, shape shifters and what not in Denver? And that they all are in need of advice?

Kitty is still a young werewolf and as such at the bottom of the pack. Her new show and subsequent success upset the pack dynamics considerably and soon she must fear for her life. Someone is after her and wants her dead. On top of that there is a killer on the loose. A rogue werewolf who kills randomly.

While I wouldn’t say this is as well written as Kelley Armstrong’s’ truly great series, it’s a fun read. Kitty is very smart and witty and a lot of cultural references will even appeal to the more sophisticated reader. I also liked that Kitty didn’t just fit in but actively fought pack dynamics which demand that she, as the youngest female member, has to please the alpha males whenever they like. Kitty is too intelligent, strong and determined, to just accept things the way they are and always used to be. If it means to break with tradition to fight for her rights, so be it.

The idea of the “Midnight Hour” was what made this series stand out as it’s truly funny.

I might pick up book two in the series as the combination of witty humour, a strong endearing heroine and a gripping crime made for a very entertaining read.

Not everyone’s cup of tea but lovers of werewolf novels, fans of paranormal crime and urban fantasy should give it a try. It’s one of the best of its kind. For those who like their series with different paranormal creatures, yes, there are vampires as well.

Karen Marie Moning: Darkfever ( 2006) Fever Series I

My philosophy is pretty simple: any day nobody’s trying to kill me is a good day in my book. I haven’t had many good days lately.’ When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death – a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone – Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. 

What a romp. This was so much fun. If anyone has been looking for a Dark Fantasy version of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, there is good news, Darkfever is exactly what you have been looking for. This is the first in the series of this urban fantasy goes crime of Karen Marie Moning who is better known as a romance writer. Don’t get alarmed, this is not a romance novel although there is a certain undercurrent in it, no, this is a real whodunit, spiced up by some nasty supernatural happenings. There are also some explicit sex scenes and judging from Book Rain’s review, the series is getting steamier from book to book. I’m grateful I read her review because now I know that not only the series ends, but that it is rather like a whole novel in five parts. Although part one has some sort of denouement, the end is a cliffhanger.

Mac (short for Mackayla) is a very naive character. She is also clumsy which is a common cliché in paranormal crime. And she was definitely into the Disney Princesses as a child and still loves pink more than anything else. But having a character like that encounter dark and malevolent beings makes for slapsticky fun.

Trying to overcome the grief over her sister’s murder and in attempt to urge the police to solve the crime, Mac decides to take things into her own hands and flies from the US to Dublin where her sister studied. Before her sister died she left a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone saying that she had been wrong about someone and something needed to be found. All this is very strange and as soon as Mac arrives in Dublin things get even more mysterious. Despite an intense aversion she befriends Barrons, the handsome but moody owner of a book shop.He agrees to help her find the murderer of her sister but only because Mac can help him find an old and very dangerous book.

Mac, as she soon finds out, is what is called a Sidhe-Seer, someone who can see faeries and other supernatural creatures. This helps her to avoid that some encounters end deadly but it also exposes her. The moment faeries know she can see them she is a threat to them and they hunt her. Additionally she can spot magic objects and since absolutely everyone in this novel seems to hunt for the same magical book Barrons is after, they are all threats to her.

This is a fast-paced novel in which a lot of the action takes place in unlit streets roamed by dark creatures. It’s a decent crime story too and there are a lot of other riddles to be solved and characters who have a hidden side which makes it well worth reading.

In any case, this was a true guilty pleasure and I will definitely read the next in the series.