Once I knew a nurse that had an info-mercial-buying problem. Her friend confided she must have thirty watches all still in the box, and closets full of unopened packages. I never understood the appeal of that kind of shopping, and I usually prove immune to impulse buying. Until now. Late at night, I stumbled upon Mister Trophy and immediately bought it. I have no idea how I found it, but what a pleasant discovery. And this is where the instant-grata of the kindle becomes troublesome: I purchased the next three novellas in about three minutes before I was able to get a reign in on my buying impulse. Thankfully it’s all electronic, otherwise I’d be up to my ears in boxes in no time. I’ve already accidentally bought Wool #5 (I had already read it), a Sanderson novel (he’s okay but doesn’t wow me), two books from a GR friend, a mediocre apocalypse/alien book, a free story from a favorite author that turned out to be weird erotica, a .99 book that was awful and every Kate Daniels novella epublished (fabulous).
This was one of those lucky jackpot finds, the kind that convinces me to keep trying the slot machine of Amazon deals; well written, fast moving action, and manages overtones of ominous well enough that I couldn’t quite predict where it was going to go. A fantasy world that reminds me of Glen Cook‘s Sweet Silver Blues, set in a fantasy world with a number of non-human species but not much active magic. The half-dead dominate the night, so smart people are tucked inside by dusk. I’ve run into the concept before, and find it an interesting one–how is daily life organized if you have only certain hours to be outdoors?
More of a novelette at 59 pages, this is a quick introduction to Finder Markhat. A delegation of Trolls come calling (“three is the customary number for quests“), requesting he deliver a message to a clan of half-dead. Markhat gets the feeling he hasn’t got the whole story. In best detective noir tradition, Markhat’s quick with a quip:
“‘I walked fifty sunsets to see you, Finder,’ it said. ‘I wade wide swamps, swim deep rivers, sleep on brother stones.’
‘I live three blocks from here,’ I replied. ‘So, I suppose, I walked fifteen minutes and drank two beers and sat on cousin chair.‘”
Why the title Mister Trophy? The Trolls are demanding their kinsman’s head back, taken as a war trophy by one of the half-dead. And because the lead Troll ominously tells Markhat, “‘You may call me Mister Smith,’ said the Troll, to a deep bass rumble I took to be chuckling. ‘Mister Bill Smith.‘” It isn’t long before Markhat is the target of a sinister warning to drop the case, but the Trolls prove true allies. Also according to noir protocol, there’s a confrontation that is sure to be a double or triple-cross.
Too brief of a piece by far, Tuttle still manages to imbue his characters with a sense of complex personality. Markhat is wise-cracking lonely detective, but more in a self-mocking kind of way. He knows better than to mock the Trolls. They were the surprise stars here, and I found myself savoring their appearance. Violent, enigmatic, honor-bound; certainly these are some of the standards but there was something with more layering and finesse in their characterization. There’s hints at a past war against them, and the means of battle, that seem like an interesting backstory but don’t leave so many questions lying around that I trip up and get distracted from the main plot. The half-dead vampires were creepy, with that air of cold miasma surrounding their appearance.
Writing was a pleasant surprise in variety and sophistication. I rarely hit an awkward ‘hm’ to interrupt flow; word choices and construction were satisfying. Honestly, I was a little concerned when I realized it was first e-pub only (see above mistakes), but I need not have worried.
Good enough to start a new bad habit.