George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, neither of which are names I instantly associate with urban fantasy, edit this collection of short stories. Martin makes the claim in the introduction that Urban Fantasy is the bastard child of two genres: Noir and Horror. I can see his point, to a degree, and with that in mind this is an anthology of urban fantasy mystery stories, ranging from a Holmes-esque victorian mystery, through some a lovecraftian horror that read like it was by Walter Mosley.
Overall a successful mix (and just what I needed to reboot me out of my reading slump - the tip to try some shorts was a good idea, and I think I'll be hitting the library for a few more of these anthologies before I try any novels again for a bit.)
Mathematically, it averages out to a solid 3, but I think the really good stories lift the entire collection more than the ones I didn't like dragged it down. So it gets an extra half star for just flat out making me happy (and more in the mood to read again)
Story by story breakdown under the fold (more for my own recollection than anyone elses.)
Story by story:
- "Dead By Dahlia" by Charlaine Harris (a Dahlia Lynley-Chivers story) 2*
Set in the Southern Vampire universe, this is pretty average. Putting it up front for name recognition value might have worked, but I found the story fairly dull.
- "The Bleeding Shadow" by Joe R. Lansdale 4.5*
This on the other hand, was fabulous. Take Robert Johnson, a deal with a devil in a store that is there, then isn't, and add to it a healthy dose of one of Lovecraft's Old ones. Now wrap it up in the easy style of a noir detective (this is the one that made me think of Mosley's "Devil in a Blue Dress"). I loved it.
- "Hungry Heart" by Simon R. Green 4*
Simon Green writes wonderfully, almost wonderfully enough that I didn't notice the story itself is a bit meh. It's not awful though, and still better than the Charlaine Harris effort. 5 for gorgeous writing, 3 for the plot, adds up to 4.
- "Styx And Stones" by Steven Saylor (a Gordianus story) 2*
Meh. Egypt in antiquity setting was cute, but it's quite clearly a side story in an ongoing world, and I've never read the books. Didn't really work for me (but might, if you're a fan of the series)
- "Pain And Suffering" by S.M. Stirling 1*
I am sitting here struggling to remember what this story was about, and I only read it a couple of days ago.
- "It's Still The Same Old Story" by Carrie Vaughn 2*
The pain of being immortal, or even just really old, and seeing people around you aging and dying. Rick the Vampire solves a murder involving someone a woman he knew for 60 years. Touching in places, but not my thing.
- "The Lady Is A Screamer" by Conn Iggulden 4.5*
A psychic and ghost hunter who started out as a con, tells how he came to be the real thing. This was fun, and an author I've seen around for ages and haven't gotten around to reading anything of. I half imagined this being relayed over a few whiskies by someone like Bobby from Supernatural. Will be more interested in this author from now on.
- "Hellbender" by Laurie R. King 3*
Quite liked this. Very unusual set-up (genetically engineered salamander people! Like, awesome!). The McGuffin blonde at the start turns out to not be one at all, and all in all a fun read.
- "Shadow Thieves" by Glen Cook (a Garrett story) 3*
I like Glen Cook, but I didn't really enjoy this story. Felt like all buildup, no finale. Still I liked the characters and the setup enough to move the Garrett PI books up my tbr list.
- "No Mystery, No Miracle" by Melinda Snodgrass (an Edge story) 4*
Now this was interesting. Dustbowl, hobos, a political convention, visitors from other dimensions, and someone who might possibly have started the cult of Jesus. Probably rather offensive to a lot of people, but I enjoyed it. I am going to investigate this “Edge” series and see if there’s more of the character Cross.
- "The Difference Between A Puzzle And A Mystery" by M.L.N. Hanover 5*
What's the real difference between an angel and a demon, especially if it's possessing a human host? Is it really only whether you agree with their goals or not?
This story was a stunner, really got me. New to me author, and definitely will check out more. Goes rather well with the one before it.
- "The Curious Affair Of The Deodand" by Lisa Tuttle 3*
If Holmes was a 21 year old autodidact and Watson was a woman, and both were a little more than usually interested in and familiar with the occult, you'd have this. And it's really very readable. I don't know if these characters could carry a whole novel for me though.
- "Lord John And The Plague Of Zombies" by Diana Gabaldon (a Lord John novella) 2*
Lord John Grey from both the Outlander books and his own series, takes a trip to the Caribbean and encounters zombies (the real thing, actually, that was a nice touch), a slave uprising, and snakes.
Not an outlander fan, and i discovered reading this, I think I'm just flat out not a Gabaldon fan. I don't like her style. The plot is kind of ok, if a little obvious and full of far too many convenient coincidences but the ending wraps it up nicely. But just an overall meh. Which is a shame, because cut all the rambling about stuff that isn't related to this story, the random sexualising of the characters, the silly coincidences, and there's a darn good tale in here - but it'd be about half the length.
- "Beware The Snake" by John Maddox Roberts (a SPQR story) 3.5*
Similar setting to the Giordanus story, although Rome this time, this was more fun. I've looked at the SPQR books before at the library, but not read them. Despite being equally unfamiliar with the characters or setting, I got straight into this one. It's a little humorous, and I can definitely see myself picking up the series.
- "In Red, With Pearls" by Patricia Briggs 2*
Warren the Werewolf PI is a small character in some other Briggs books, but here he gets a story to himself. Fun, cute mystery story involving zombies. This was ok, but not more.
- "The Adakian Eagle" by Bradley Denton (novella) 4*
A put upon army private is tasked to investigate an eagle that has been staked out in ritualistic fashion on a mountainside in Alaska, during WWII. He takes along the camp newspaperman, who just happens to be Dashiell Hammett (although the story doesn't say so until the epilogue, it's pretty obvious if you're a noir fan). This story manages to blend a slightly Helleresque army, Alaskan Native American mysticism, the McCarthy trials (yes I know I said WWII, roll with it) and an actual really good mystery.