Well, that was a surprise.
(Cover) + (title) = Pass. Except that too many book-world friends read and enjoyed it, so I thought it was worth a try. Still, I cringed: this is a cover made for the e-reader. You know, the picture you don’t want any of your friends to see, because then they’d ask the obvious, and you’d have to explain how the blonde woman with the large bosom and missing legs was witnessing three mysterious men with swords hover around her (obvious much?) were clearly debating which one of them was going to cut off their own legs so that the mad doctor could suture them to her knees instead.
That’s my interpretation, at least.
The cover might have put me in a bad place, because I think around chapter two, I wondered if I was even in the mood to finish. It turns out, the first three chapters are somewhat of a blind, a prelude to the character of Eddie and his cases. Thankfully, the real story takes off after Eddie completes the current commission.
A mix of noir and fantasy, I feel like Bledscoe is still finding his stride, a sort of Terry Pratchett style of noir. Initially, plot, characters, dialogue–all written straight noir trope, plopped down into a generic but well-described fantasy setting. Characters named “Eddie,” “Kenny,” “Rachel,” and “Mike Anders,” talking about military school, an architect girlfriend–it’s more than a bit disconcerting after coming from writers who craft fantasy worlds like travel guides. At least, I assumed it was a tongue-in-cheek style–until we start digging into Eddie’s emotional history. As Eddie tracks down the solution to a grisly murder, he winds through his own troubled past.
As an aside: must Bledscoe have named towns Neceda (real name: Necedah), Muscodia (real name: Muscoda) and Boscobel (real name: Boscobel)? These are real places in Wisconsin, and are infinitely distracting to the one twentieth of the U.S. population that lives there. The first two likely reflect corrupted Native American place names, so they don’t particularly set well with the Eddies and Mikes of the naming world. But hey–I guess I can admire the commitment to copying from the modern world.
What saved it for me was the emotional core of the story, the gooey center of self discovery and a sort of wistful romance. There’s also an element of mythology which I rather enjoyed but is incompletely explained for those who like a lot of detail. Taking pains to not spoil, I’ll note that the mythology component explained a lot of me that made potentially problematic females characterization and action more acceptable. The villain was ominous and a decent foil.
When I picked this one up from the library, I thought I was reading a fantasy. It turned into a noir mystery, and then evolved into a hero’s quest for redemption and discovery. And not a legless woman in the bunch. Just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover.