This was the book that sealed the deal. If New York detective noir (with a vampire twist) is the kind of description that piques your interest, I strongly recommend this book. It’s completely unlike most UF, nary a sparkle nor wolf to be found, and owes most of its atmosphere to the Sam Spade tradition of the cold-hearted loner trying to retain some thin shred of his ideals. The plot appears to be a relatively straightforward investigation but has a whiz-bang reveal that floored me. When I realized what was going on–about the same time Joe did–it was like a slap upside the head.
It starts with a fight. First the physical kind (a plate glass window is involved, naturally), then the girlfriend kind (the things we do for reassurance). Day in the life of Joe Pitt. Joe’s been scrambling for work since the last book, as events covered therein have negatively impacted his employability. Eventually he heads downtown to hit up Terry and the Society for work, but Terry’s right hand man, Tom, gives him the bureaucratic run-around. Terry comes through, and Joe goes to work looking for the source of the new Vampyre drug on the street. Philip, the Renfield snitch, provides information and a contact. Joe stops at the Enclave, a group of spirtualistic vampires, then hits the A train up to Harlem (cue the Duke), right through Coalition territory. From there, he’s just trying to survive in a hostile land as he tries to uncover the source. As usual, Joe’s technique doesn’t consist of asking questions as much as being beat up while everyone conveniently explains themselves.
There’s an interesting parallel to modern drug culture in the Vampyre world Huston has dreamed up, and the organization of a culture built around its distribution and control. Huston uses many of the traditional routes people get exposed to drugs to excellent effect: those that fell into it; the counterculture deviant; the hoodlum just struggling to survive; the accidental dose; the transformation-seekers; the runaway; the victim; the upper-class dallying in extremes; the sycophants. It works for me.
While it’s a violent book, I never seem to think of it as despairing. Perhaps it’s Joe’s affection for Evie tempering his dispassionate violence. Perhaps it’s his stubborn independence in the face of powerful factions. Whatever it is, it has me drawn in to the series and already onto the next book.