This review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books
I had a hard time deciding what I thought about this one. I really wanted to like it. Originally published in 1987, it's one of the earlier examples of urban fantasy, and that says a lot in itself. Although according to the Wikipedia the genre was officially acknowledged in the late 80s, I feel the late 90s is when it really came into its own, and it is still extraordinarily popular, especially with women (as evidenced by all the urban paranormal romance series out there). So I give him props for doing something relatively original at the time, even though private investigator is such a cliche in the genre now. But the book just couldn't quite keep it together.
The huge cast of characters and all the scheming they went through, while usually I enjoy some intense scheming, this time only served to disinterest me. Pretty soon I had to juggle half a dozen story lines and I didn't care about any of them, which made it more of a chore to read then anything because I had to keep flipping back to see who the hell he was talking about. There was a mystery to be solved in there somewhere but I didn't care about it. I can understand the seeds getting planted for sequels, but I was so bored with the story in this one by the time I got to the end, no sequel will come in sight for me. The women...oh god, the women. Even the one Garrett hates he can hardly take his eyes off because of her "lavish figure" or some such malarkey. Here's a nice quote from page 69:
"The boat began to drift away from the wharf. The women took my advice, sprinted and jumped. A delectable bundle of goodies plopped into my arms. Morley popped up and caught Rose, making suitable purrs at the advent of unexpected treasures...she made no effort to peel herself from me. I thought about pushing her away - sometime next week."
At this point, blatant sexism is practically what I'm used to in urban fantasy, but it still enrages me. The two women are never more than annoying, chattering, and good looking background noise, who also happen to need rescuing now and then.
So besides sexism and a plot that I couldn't care to keep up with, there was also the issue of the writing style. Often something "subtle" would happen. The author would point this out to us, probably by Garrett looking significantly at a character or a revelation within the narration...only half the time, I was so confused as to what he was talking about, I would reread the scene a couple times to figure out what I had missed. This happened in action scenes as well, it felt like there would be whole sentences missing and it left me furrowing my brow in question. Once again, I feel this was a missed opportunity for me to get into the story. The author obviously wanted the reader to feel like they were solving the mystery by seeing something subtle in the descriptions he gave us, but it fell so flat as to render me confused and helpless, so I'd just plow on and hope it would be explained. Sometimes it was, sometimes not. By the end of the novel I didn't care anymore to try to find out.