E.M. Swift-Hook‘s review
Hole Lotta Fun!
“You all know our esteemed Commander in Chief,” Roosevelt bowed his head as he fingered his chips. “Next to him is Ducky Smith, one of the few women in the new Secret Service, and next to her is Mister Eric Craig, the only scientist to beat Russia’s Tesla in chess. Watch out for him, he cheats.”
I feel guilty doing a review of this book. Guilty, because I star in it – well my namesake does. So I shall keep this short and sweet.
This is a wonderful and rip-roaring tale of derring-do by Tony and Frankie who find themselves plunged back in time to April 1906 – and they are still in San Fransisco.
It includes the finest game of poker in all fiction!
You will not regret reading it and if you have not met Tony Mandolin before, I am confident you will soon be back for more.
“On floor 5 things changed, whether for good or bad is still up in the air.’
It is Thanksgiving and PI Tony Mandolin is enjoying the traditional meal and gathering of friends when another good friend, Police Captain Pat Monahan, turns up at the door with news of a strange disaster back at the police station. Ably assisted by those gathered for the celebratory meal, including his work partner, the ex-drag queen Frankie and his romantic partner Alcina, Tony sets out to deal with – well, no one is quite sure.But that is the way Tony rolls in his day job so a little paranormal overtime on Thanksgiving is not going to make him break a sweat – too much…
This is a short story that captures well all the essential elements of Tony Mandolin, from the humour to the good-heart, from the tough city to the strange and paranormal. It also introduces you to the significant people in his life and the nature of the world he inhabits and the strange investigations he gets asked to handle.
I liked that, unlike the other Tony Mandolin books, this is available through KU. If you already are a fan of the series you will want to read this special holiday story. If you have never heard of Tony Mandolin before, then this is your chance to meet him and maybe discover a new firm favourite urban fantasy hero – and author.
E.M. Swift-Hook‘s review – ‘It was amazing’
Harry Dresden had better look out!
“You are a smart man, Mr. Mandolin. That is why you have succeeded in your profession, in spite of your habit of styling yourself after a pulp novel character.”
Tony Mandolin is a private investigator in San Francisco and when a beautiful young woman hires him to find her twin sister, he is not so happy to take the case. Before long he finds he’s investigating a serial killer and some of the victims seem to have connections to the gangster community. Things get dangerous when Tony has to deal with the animosity of a corrupt police officer, the attention of gangland godfathers – and the supernatural.
Tony makes his own life that bit more difficult by refusing to carry a phone and he has to rely on the available phone booths to keep in touch with people. ‘People’ usually being Pat Monahan, the one police detective who has time for him. In addition Tony’s life is also made more colourful by the presence of Frankie, a drag-queen, who adores him and is always wanting to help out.
I loved this book for so many reasons – but one was the fact that all the time I was reading it I could hear it being narrated to me in a snippy, Philip Marlowe voice. Tony Mandolin is such a successful pastiche of the Marlowe-esque style that after the first chapter you could be forgiven for accusing Marlowe of being Mandolin-esque.
“Stay back! I have a jar of capers and I’m not afraid to use it!”
This book is very well written. The first person narrative flows along and the dialogue is snappy, snippy and witty. Sometimes the humour is groan out loud and sometimes it’s a definite chuckle – although I think I may have missed out on some of it not being a native. But even without any humour, this is rocking urban fantasy – and I mean rocking! The sense of an alternative San Francisco is very well set up, the characters come over as three-dimensional, totally developed individuals.
In urban fantasy it is vital that the supernatural elements fit seamlessly in to the world, and here they do. The gradual uncovering of them, leading Tony further and further in to this strange world in his own backyard, is undertaken with a graceful ease. The take on some supernaturals is awesome – I thought the vampire one of the most terrifying incarnations of the species I have come across to date. But even without the fantasy element you still have a really gritty PI noir backdrop with tough city life and gangsters. The struggle of a PI against the world with a handful of oddball friends, most of them fellow outcasts or tending that way and even the forces of law and order as his enemy.
Billy didn’t just run to fat. For him it was a full-fledged joyous race into obesity.
For me there were few faults I could find that were going to stop me really enjoying this. The only things that came close is what seemed to me to be the places where the humour brushed very close against a PC line and the point where stereotype took over. Sometimes this did grate on my sensibilities. I also decided the author really likes the name ‘Bambi’ as two passing characters in the book get given it, fortunately far enough apart in the plot for it not to confuse. I also struggled to place this in time. There seemed a lot to indicate it was set in the present, but the near absence of some obvious modern technology did make me wonder.
I did hesitate between 4 and 5 stars, but the ultimate test of a good book for me, that which cuts the top reads from the ones I just enjoy, is if I am reaching for the next book as soon as the first is finished – and let’s just say my reading list just grew by a few more volumes!
I would recommend this book to those who love urban fantasy and want to try it with a large helping of humour and gritty PI noir flavour sauce poured over the lot.
You can find out more about all Robert Lee Beer's books on his publisher's website.