I have a special fondness in my heart for NYC. The Met. The Chinese food. The Strand. The people zoo. Especially the people zoo–every time I go, I’m reminded of Whoopie Goldberg in saying, “There’s some funky lookin’ people in New York.” I don’t often see the NY Huston writes about. It’s there, in the skinny dude doing junkie tai chi on the corner, and in the random clothing nests I might see stashed under a bench. I’ve been to the kiddie parks with kiddies in tow, but I confess I wasn’t looking around for the pedophiles. It gives me extra appreciation for Huston’s writing, which has as much to do with the seedy parts of the city as the politics of staying independent among the Vampyres cabals. And I confess; I love seeing Manhattan divided up into vampire enclaves. It seems so apropos.
This is gritty private eye/hired gun noir, with a supernatural twist. Everybody is working an angle, but Joe’s just trying to get by. He tracks a ‘shambler”–zombie–to a flophouse, killing it before it can spread any the disease. The Upper East Side Coalition of vamps (*snerk*) assigns him to kill the infected carrier before it spreads further. Shortly after, a very wealthy and bored woman hires him to find her missing daughter, last seen slumming it in Alphabet City. Joe really doesn’t have time for her, but realizes there is a connection.
It’s done well enough to be very readable, making me impatient with whoever it was that called me while I was near the end (personal rule: never answer the phone when near the end of a mystery). There’s an interesting metaphysical angle that shows up when dealing with one of the Vampyre sects, and I have to applaud Huston for taking the plot to the next level. Still, it remains very noir, with frequent, almost indifferent violence, interrogations and extreme sexual deviance. Thankfully, although brutal, the scenes are short, detailed enough to create tension but not enough to vicariously wallow in it. There are bits of humor to leaven the darkness, particularly the anarchist -isms dialogue that crops up every time Joe interacts with the Society. There’s an especially great dialogue when the lesbian enforcer calls out the presumably straight guy for calling someone a “girl.” Her diatribe on being undead not needing to contribute to the further marginalization/ exploitation/ etc. had me cracking up.
Three and a half stars, rounding up because I think it’s a standout in the UF detective field. I’ll be looking for the next book in the series.