I reviewed a trio of novelettes from Burning Effigy Press by fellow Canadian, Ian Rogers, during the winter that managed to blend horror, fantasy, and crime genres with a Toronto backdrop in a highly entertaining fashion. I reviewed each book as I read it over on Skull Salad Reviews, but I thought I'd compile all three reviews here to go along with the Urban Fantasy Marathon.
Temporary Monsters by Ian Rogers (ISBN 9781926611073)
Set in a world in which monsters do exist and the borders between our dimension and a hellish one known as the Black Lands exists as well, Felix Renn is a burned-out private eye with an ex-wife and bills to pay. His latest job has him looking into the background of a movie star who went on a psychotic rampage, in the guise of a vampire, before someone killed him in self-defense--that someone being Felix, no less. Felix soon learns the rising star was not only doing one helluva job as a vampire when he went outhouse crazy in a restaurant, but the movie he was working on in town had him playing a vampire. And when things go wrong with the actor's co-star, who is playing a werewolf ... well, one guess how that turns out.
The world Ian has created here is surprisingly robust when barely using thirty pages to know only set the stage, but tell the whole story. The added twist of a drug that seems to temporarily morph users into monsters of choice is both macabre and original. There's a good payoff at the end with enough of a teaser for future installments. In fact, The Ash Angels is the next story in the Black Lands series, which I hope to read sooner rather than later.
Seeing Canada portrayed as something other than a snowbound land of overly polite syrup-suckers is always welcome, and Ian did a heckuva job layering grime all over Toronto. I'm looking forward to reading what else he has in store for the great white north and abroad.
The Ash Angels by Ian Rogers (ISBN 9781926611099)
It's Christmas time, and while Felix and his ex-wife are civil to each other these days, he'd rather be alone--and drunk. He needs something festive for a chaser while home alone, so he heads out to find some eggnog and wides up with a mystery involving piles of ash shaped like angels. It's a case that leads him from a funeral home and ultimately to a familiar location from his recent past, all the while trying to keep from winding up like the ashen corpses he finds.
The Ash Angels has the same hard-boiled approach to urban fantasy that I've come to enjoy from several authors, and Ian has a great character with Felix Renn to explore this world he's created. That said. this second installment didn't come off quite as strong as the debut effort. The curse of the sophomore book in a series, I suppose. It's not bad, quite the contrary actually, but with such a powderkeg as Temporary Monsters, I had my hopes set really high on this one. Still a satisfying read, and I'm eager to read the third installment, Black-Eyed Kids, in the near future, which Ian intimated is his strongest work of the three. Good to know.
If you're not on board the Felix Renn bandwagon, and you're a fan of gritty urban fantasy, I suggest you remedy that.
The Black-Eyed Kids by Ian Rogers (ISBN 9781926611136)
This time around, Felix is doing some work in Toronto that is much more mundane and far less life-threatening--for a while, anyway. He's been hired by a guy to keep an eye on his wife whom is suspected of being unfaithful, but while Felix has her apartment staked out she is murdered right under his nose--cut in half with the lower half missing, and there's no sign of anyone coming or going. It doesn't take long to realize there is something supernatural going on, as that sort of thing seems to just gravitate to ol' Felix. A big clue that things are on the paranormal side of things is when two kids, a boy and a girl, begin stalking him. Maybe not so disturbing when put like that, but these kids are Village of the Damned caliber creepy thanks to eyes that are orbs of pure black. When Felix finds out the kids are connected to the murder, he also learns the guy who hired him isn't who he says he is, and there's been more than one death linked to those kids.
Whoa Nelly, this one was a dark treat to read. The first two books certainly had their fair share of sinister vibes, but there was more--how do I put it?--rollickingness. No that's not right. Maybe sardonic tone is what I mean. Felix is the kind of guy who will let his world-weary side shine through. This time around there isn't a lot of room for that, because his life is in imminent danger even more than the last two times. The story is the most intense of the three with a threat that Felix comes to believe he can't defeat. Everything plays out really well with an episodic quality I've come to expect and appreciate from Ian's work.
I think this would have to be Ian's strongest effort yet of the three novellas published so far, which bodes well for future iterations, including a Felix Renn novel that's apparently in the works. If you enjoy gritty urban fantasy, this should be right up your alley.