Well, got that fix out of the way. I’m about full-up on my need for humorous urban fantasy, so I can finally slip into something different. On deck and dragging is finishing The Severed Streets (and why on earth that fool author introduced Neil Gaiman is beyond me), (re)reading Katwalk, which should count as an initial read since I first read it about twenty years ago, re-reading Quantum Thief and hopefully, immersing myself in The Troupe. Oh, and The Spirit Stone. So I’ve got a lot to do, people; I need to make this quick.
Right, on to the main point. Knight Moves is book three in the vampire buddy duo of Jimmy Black and Greg Knightwood, aided and abetted by Father Mike and Detective Sabrina Law. It begins with a bowling date, and Jimmy and Sabrina seemed poised for their first clench when they are rudely interrupted by Greg bearing news of a dead–and drained–body on the local college campus. Oh-oh: Jimmy knows all too well what that means. They’re too late–or just on time, depending on your point of view–to do what needs to be done, and the newly risen twenty year-old woman is going to cause some thorny philosophical and emotional issues. The investigation into her death takes off, moves quickly among a combination of expected and unexpected plot points, and maintains a fast pace until the end.
There is a plot point or two that had me wondering about the world-building in this version of Charlotte, North Carolina, but I didn’t dwell too long, and honestly, close reading might have explained it. But I don’t read these kind of books to focus on the amazing world-building and language finesse. I want plotting to be generally coherent and enough action that I can’t accidentally-on-purpose skip five pages and still be able to understand what’s going on. So, success.
What I tend to appreciate most about this series is the combination of humor, emotional sensitivity and action. It’s clear the more we learn about Jimmy that he has some serious internal conflict about his life as a vampire, no matter how he tries to spin the ‘apex predator’ slogan. However, Jimmy (and Hartness) does not take himself as seriously as Dresden (and Butcher), and the quips are more appropriately placed with respect to scene tone and action. The humor is a nice mix of commentary that hints at an emotional depth while turning it into a laugh:
“But I couldn’t change that, so I had to be responsible for her. Greg was going to love this. He’d wanted a puppy for years, and I kept saying no. Now I was going to bring home a pet vampire.”
Or recognizing plot/vampire tropes, such as when Jimmy and Greg are discussing a stolen vehicle:
“‘Yeah, whatever. You got any clients that run chop shops?’
‘No. You got any old informants that owe you a favor?’
‘No. So if we’re out of the stereotypical ideas, what’s next?’“
As well as current cultural commentary:
“And she’s kinda the Kingpin of Charlotte, if you’ve read enough Daredevil comics to get the reference.’
‘I saw that really crappy movie with Ben Affleck, if that’s what you mean,’ Abby said. ‘But I get it.'”
(Personally, I like to think of it as that bad comic-book movie where Jennifer Gardner makes an appearance, but we all have our ways of describing Daredevil).
At any rate, though humor often seems to be a staple of the UF genre, it’s hard to maintain the tone of seriousness if your heroes are going to make as many quips as judo moves. Hartness found a balance that works for me, particularly in the development of the emotional aspects of Jimmy and Greg’s lives. If you’ve been following this long, you know that although they are best friends, Jimmy turned Greg, and both of them live with some heavy emotional consequences. There’s also a developing angle with Father Mike, and the growing connection between Jimmy and Sabrina. If humor pops up, it’s because it helps put a brave face on the heartbreak, or indirectly comment on Jimmy’s affection. Plus, Sabrina is freaking funny:
‘So,’ Sabrina said. ‘If you two are done measuring things no one else is interested in seeing, what’s the plan for the evening?”
And honestly, although there are enough references to crack me up, Hartness doesn’t come near Ready Player One or Geekomancy in the cultural references, which is nice. Yet despite my claim to the contrary, I’ll leave you with one last little giggle:
“I pulled a chair in from the kitchen for Sabrina and looked around for a place to sit. If we kept adding supernatural associates to our little Junior Justice League, we were totally going to need a satellite. Or at least a real office.”