I know what you are thinking: why did I read this when I apparently hated the first in the series? The short answer: it has been a month of severe reading ADD.
The long answer: I’m enrolled in a class to advance my nursing degree when my employer announces they are merging my nursing unit with a critical care unit in four months. So all of a sudden, I’m also taking classes through work, one of which means trying to recover long-ago knowledge of cardiac rhythms. I had already requested Kraken by Mieville from the library and had begged NetGalley for Harrison Squared, so I was afraid of Full Brain Syndrome. The Esther Diamond series by Resnick seemed to fit the bill for fluffy downtime reading. Being on the orderly side of the scale, I picked up the first book, Disappearing Nightly, and discovered in Resnick’s introduction that the book has actually gone out of print, had the rights reverted, and was then ‘updated’ and republished. When I reached a particularly clunky world-building chapter (on page 90!), I decided to set it down.
Hoping it was a case of first book syndrome (her first UF book), I thought I’d give the second a quick spin. Reviews seemed to support that decision. Sadly, it was even less interesting than the first, and I wandered off somewhere around page 100. I came back to the first book, decided it was better than I originally thought but found the ending such a whopper of poor taste and decision-making that I gave it negative stars when I wrote the review. Went back to this one–because I feel this weird urge for
procrastination completion–and lost interest again. It’s probably that I’m the wrong audience–The Sopranos was the last time I was interested in organized crime–but it’s also that it just isn’t good writing.
Esther the actress continues to be mostly airheaded and dramatic. After witnessing a murder at her waitressing job, she is pulled into the mystery of apparent body doubles among the city’s organized crime families. The cop she is almost-dating from book one is now on the Organized Crime Squad, so when he’s assigned the case, he and Esther keep colliding. Their romantic tension is cute and probably the most well-developed aspect of the story. The band of merry men from Disappearing has been replaced with a sidekick from the crime family, Lucky, and Max’s new familiar, Nelli. Through it all, Esther continues to agonize about acting jobs, the wizard continues to be almost useless, and Esther’s interview skills continue to annoy. There’s numerous small plot inconsistencies to add to the irritation. One example of a bigger plot hole comes from Nelli, who is initially able to identify the duplicates but is unable to identify one at a crucial moment.
The writing is flat-out awkward. For instance, Esther is trying to get a woman to come with her down into the basement/crypt of the church where Esther thinks she left a shawl. I’m not really sure why Esther decides she needs the ancillary character to go with her, but it becomes an excuse for a long, awkward dialogue about the crime family and the woman’s three murdered husbands. Then Esther instead heads into the crypt with the priest and continues to pump him for information about the widow while she looks for the shawl. I still can’t tell if it is a character issue or a writing issue, because Esther is very over-dramatic about insignificant things she shouldn’t care about. Esther ‘gasps’ hearing the story of one husband’s death and puts her hand “up to my own throat” imagining a fight. Shortly after, she offers to help the priest search the lost-and-found for her shawl, is told it is only a cardboard box, and then is “disappointed. Also surprised” that her wrap has been stolen “from a church.” The dialogues seem to be meant to provide the reader with red herrings and to provide information about the shawl and a weeping statue, but they are just awkward, practically screaming CLUE HERE!
It’s great if you enjoy it, but I can’t. It’s like late-series Stephanie Plum books with less logic and dumb magical elements. Besides, I just got a new set of library books in, including American Everywhere by Robert Jackson Bennett (City of Stairs), Dry Storeroom No.1 by Richard Fortey, and Afterparty by Daryl Gregory (We Are All Completely Fine).
And there are always cardiac rhythms to study.