Friday, January 23, 2009
Review: The Unnatural Inquirer by Simon R. Green
Next book up: The Unnatural Inquirer, by Simon R. Green, copyright 2008, published by Ace Books.
Noir-ish P.I. and all around magical bad-ass guy John Taylor lives in a hidden part of London called the Nightside, where he sticks up for the little guys (sometimes), sticks it to the bad guys (sometimes) and causes trouble for the Authorities who rule there (always). This is the eighth book in a loose series featuring Taylor, where there is always a new McGuffin to be sought, but some recurring characters and plotlines from book to book. In the current entry in the series, Taylor is hired by a sleezy tabloid to find a man who sold them a video purportedly showing hard evidence of the existence of an afterlife, but reneged at the last minute and went into hiding. It turns out that some people really, really don't want the reality of an afterlife confirmed, while others would literally do anything to get proof of life after death, and both sides are willing to kill, or worse, to get what they want.
Taylor's employers saddle him with one of their reporters as a sidekick, a half-succubus hottie who wields her magical sex appeal to get stories, and send him on his search, with a reward of 1,000,000 pounds for recovery of the video. Taylor's special magical talent is finding things -- literally anything he can think of, but someone or something is blocking his talent when he tries to use it find the video or its owner. This leaves him to rely on good old-fashioned leg work, and so (as is usual in this series) we get a mini-tour of the Nightside and its weird and deadly inhabitants as he tracks down leads.
Because this book is patterned after a mystery novel, successive clues lead Taylor closer to his goal, but with escalating encounters with baddies of escalating power, leading to a big reveal at the end.
A good book, and a lot of fun. I've read a bunch of Green's books and have liked them all. The Nightside books (of which this is the eighth) all follow the same basic plot -- John Taylor is asked to find some object of power, or some missing person, wanders through the dark magical underbelly of society that inhabits the Nightside, discovers that more is going on than he really thought, and discovers something new about the nature of his home, something often distasteful, or horrific. Formulaic, but the formula works. What really makes these books work well is the interesting cast of characters Taylor encounters as he carries out his investigations, numbering punk demi-gods and characters from ancient myth and legend among his friends and acquaintances. Green excels in taking well known mythic characters, giving them a twist, and using them to populate the back alleys of the Nightside, as well as developing new modern mythic characters or borrowing them from other works (versions of C'thulu and Dr. Who are both mentioned in passing).
Buy this book, and all the others in the series! They're great! Urban fantasy without the Vampire Shagging!
What other people have to say about The Unnatural Inquirer:
Michael M. Jones at Green Man Review
Max at Revish
Kimberly Swan at Darque Reviews
Maria at bookspotcentral.com