Wallace is doing an interesting thing with his urban fantasy series wrapped around the adventures of a catering firm the works with the supernatural. As he states on his website,
“Each book has a standalone plot, in this case centered around a single event the company is catering, but it carries over a lot of the stories and character arcs from the last book. It’s like an old-fashioned serial. There are cliffhangers, there are monsters of the week, and there’s a fast-paced world you check in with every few months to get the next part of the Big Story.” (source quote)
The books are a blend of culinary escapades, physical action and general silliness, wrapped around a curious emotional core and sprinkled with pop culture references.
In this installment, Bronko, the famed former tv chef is experiencing hellish torments. Meanwhile, his crew is obligated to catering engagements on opposite sides of the country–the half-and-half con in New York (although as Jett reminds us, that’s ablest and is disrespectful to centaurs and minotaurs) and a movie premiere in Los Angeles. Newer employees, best friends and roommates Lena and Darren are in a tiff over her sleeping with the sous chef. It’s complicated to work together when you aren’t speaking to each other. Since the cooking and serving staff will be on the job, Bronko gives the Stocking & Receiving Department the week off. As we all know, the minute you are told to take a week vacation, things are going to go to hell. Or Hell will come to you.
While it is fun, the narrative is a bit choppy. Initial scenes alternate between Bronko’s torment, the dastardly deal-making of Hollywood producers, Lena’s perspective and events with members of the Stocking team. I’m not sure the sections with the movie producers was strictly needed, although it added to tension-building. It did give Wallace a chance to farcically describe the Hollywood system. It ran the risk of the ridiculous, but it was mostly entertaining: “Apparently less than ten percent of all writers and directors are women.” “We can’t get it any lower than that,” Producer Two complains. “A few are bound to slip through now and then. It’s not a foolproof system.”
I enjoyed the dryly sarcastic tone, offering such insights as “Behind him, Cindy performs a physiological miracle by rolling her eyes without her eyes ever moving in their sockets” and “In fact, in Hell it will become known as the single most horrific death ever to occur on Earth. That’s like winning the Oscar for best picture down there.” Unlike some pulpy urban fantasy books (looking at you, Geekomancy), I thought Wallace was able to keep congruence between events and tone, not losing sight that death and dismemberment are horrible. That said, there’s also a bizarro element to the series, particularly when Hell sends ‘false idols’ after the team.
I’ve read the first in the series but missed the second, Lustlocked (now rectified), and my word of advice for would-be readers is that this is truly a serial in the old-fashioned sense. Unlike my recent reading experience of the frequently repetitive Mercy Thompson series, Wallace doesn’t waste space on back story; often there will be no more than a sentence or two of explanation. I don’t doubt that starting at this book will provide confusing on both the character and world-building fronts, much like picking up on the third or fourth episode of a sci-fi tv series.
While I don’t think the Sin du Jour series is meant to be taken entirely seriously, there’s a core emotional weight to them that is intriguing, particularly in this one based on pride. I’ve discovered is that Wallace has achieved his goal–these are perfect pieces for when I want to sit down and devour something fun.
Review of Envy of Angels here.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for an advance reader copy.