Ghost Detective Review

“Everybody dies. Nobody leaves.”

Private detective of sorts Myron Vale has good reason to be reclusive. Ghosts remain on Earth after someone dies. ALL of them. Myron is twice cursed by a lingering injury, as not only can he see and interact with the multitude of ghosts everyone else is unaware of, he can’t tell them from the living…

 

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Ghost Detective surrounds a strong hard boiled detective core with a fascinating supernatural concept. The blending of the two genres really works and the premise is well used. Little details, like Myron being a recluse, arise naturally and make things feel authentic within the extraordinary setup.

The story is a little heavy on plot convenient coincidence and a few things fit too neatly, but it’s still compelling overall, with logical progression and reasonably interesting characters and developments. This is a good opening book, and Myron’s adventures have the potential to be even better going forward.

Hellequin: Prison of Hope Review

“You don’t scare me.”

“Then you clearly haven’t been paying attention.”

 

Prison of Hope is Nathan Garret’s fourth adventure. It’s a complete story on its own and does a good job of explaining the key concepts and characters, but also builds heavily on previously known characters and established backstory. Best to not to start here – go back to Crimes Against Magic (book 1). Also see my reviews for Born of Hatred (book 2) and With Silent Screams (book 3).

 

Tartarus, like all mythical things, isn’t quite as legends say. But it is the involuntary home of beings too dangerous to stay free. In 1936, the only known breakout occurred when the demon/human hybrid Pandora escaped and was tracked by sorcerer Nathan Garret. Now someone else hopes to become a second “success” story…

 

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Prison of Hope promises to be the most ambitious Hellequin novel right off the bat by opening with a “List of Characters” section, naming key persons in both the flashback and current time periods. It’s a nice touch. Since the list is quite long it of course helps as a reference to keep everyone straight as the reader progresses, but it also raises anticipation for the appearances of some of the familiar mythological beings named that haven’t shown up in the series before. The skill with which McHugh blends numerous mythologies and magic systems into a cohesive world is masterful, as is his ability to then turn things on their head in believable, logical ways. His take on both Pandora and the Greek pantheon is fascinating and adds a lot of intrigue to the plot.

The flashback and modern time stories parallel and complement each other beautifully and the pace stays brisk and gripping throughout. McHugh has really found the perfect balance at this point of answering old questions and organically creating new ones in each new book to keep the series from getting stale without losing the suspense and atmosphere at the center of Hellequin’s appeal. Each new clue or detail about Nate’s past is a treat. There’s strong appearances by established supporting cast members as well as several new characters who are all well developed and distinct. And often annoying, but antagonists are supposed to be.

I’m going to wrap up here to avoid spoiling any of the surprises Prison of Hope has in store. One key reveal is actually spoiled in the book description, so if you’ve somehow found my review without reading that try to avoid it.

Prison of Hope is my favorite of the Hellequin series, combining compelling characters and plot in a suspenseful and gripping way.

Hellequin: With Silent Screams Review

“Sure, do you have a plan?”
“No, I was hoping you did.”
“Excellent. This should be fun then.”

With Silent Screams is Nathan Garret’s third adventure. It’s a complete story on its own and does a good job of explaining the key concepts and characters, but tons of significance and context would be lost without knowing Nate’s background first. Best to not start here – go back to Crimes Against Magic (book 1). Also see my review for Born of Hatred (book 2).

 

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An old friend’s murder throws Nate into a long battle of move and counter move all connected to a series of grizzly murders he helped investigate thirty years ago. The care and expertise with which McHugh plays with and builds off of these cliched starting points makes With Silent Screams an incredible ride and easily the best of the Hellequin series thus far. The pace is breakneck without glossing over anything or losing the reader and a fantastic level of tension and intrigue permeates the book.

One of the best things abut this installment is the flashbacks and current time are equally interesting. Don’t know is McHugh is just finding a better balance, if the proximity to current day of the flashbacks helps, or if it’s because of how completely the stories are intertwined. Probably all three. The net effect is that I didn’t experience the slight drag the previous books had whenever going to the past timeline.

Although did I notice on rereading the previous two books I was more invested in those past events than the first time through, and in this one knowing how things would turn out took just a little of the reading urgency away. All three held up very well overall though and I’m glad to discover I’ll enjoy revisiting these, likely regularly.

The supporting cast is developing wonderfully and there are both great new additions and reappearances from old favorites. The mythos is expanding naturally and logically and everything from the magic system to the way various mythological figures coexist is compelling and engrossing.

Overall this third Hellequin novel brings the already strong series up several notches and builds great momentum for future books. Highly recommended.

Hellequin: Born of Hatred Review

This is Nathan Garret’s second adventure. It’s a complete story on its own, but does build off of events in Crimes Against Magic (book 1). Better to start there.

 

Nathan Garrett’s former identity is dead and buried. But when a case he takes for a friend recalls elements of one from his past involving an evil even Hellequin had trouble with, Nate might need the edge and ruthlessness he once had.

 

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This second installment if the Hellequin series is slightly more straight forward than the first, with fewer surprises and more full blown exposition. However the disparate mythologies blend even better here and a great batch of new characters carry things along nicely. We find out more about Nate’s world, the different creatures that inhabit it, and the societal structures that go along with it all. I really like how things are developing in a world building sense.

The past admittedly still somehow drags compared to the present despite a lot of action and danger. It does pick up eventually and everything comes together nicely in the end but it is a small mark against the book as it’s roughly divided in half between past and present and one is far more interesting than the other. Overall it feels very different from Crimes Against Magic, but I enjoyed Born of Hatred just as much and it continued to establish Hellequin as one of my favorite series.

 

Hellequin: Crimes Against Magic Review

In early 1400’s France a wandering warrior with Chinese weapons faces werewolves among a massacred city. In present day Southampton a thief with no past and a secret talent for magic charms his way through heists and carefully deals with the dangerous family ties of his associates.

 

 

If it sounds like I’m describing the premises of two different books I understand – that’s how I felt reading for a majority of Crimes Against Magic. The two parallel tales are connected of course, but the general atmosphere and tone was so different the switching back and forth was somewhat jarring. The past timeline also became much less compelling than the present during the middle of the book. Despite plenty of action and solid plot progression it still seemed to primarily exist for exposition.

I’m mentioning this all up front because it’s directly connected to trying to give an idea of what the book is about and is worthwhile criticism to mention. I don’t want to give the wrong idea though – Crimes Against Magic rises above these small issues and is a pretty great read overall.

A large part of that success is due to a variety of engaging and intriguing characters, particularly our narrator Nathan Garrett. He has as much to learn about himself and the strangeness of his world as he already knows, but he’s experienced enough to make things interesting even when in over his head. McHugh gives even minor characters little touches of depth that add significantly to the narrative and connection with the reader.

Like with the characters and some general plot elements, the world building take familiar elements from various genres and combines and uses them to great effect in unique ways. Concepts and folklore are pulled from some many sources there are almost too many mythologies and creatures blended in, but as it all connects logically and is tightly connected to the plot and characters it ends up working well.

One last thing I’d like to praise is the storytelling. Mysteries are unraveled gradually and with careful precision. My favorite type of book is one that foreshadows enough that I piece together some of the major developments from provided hints but still manages to surprise me. I got both here in abundance, including a couple of wonderfully shocking turns and a strong ending that have me very excited about continuing with the series.

So while it does feel at times that the author tried to fit a little too much in one book, I really enjoyed Crimes Against Magic and it’s an easy recommendation for any fan of urban fantasy.

Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery Review

“How do you solve your own murder when you are the only suspect?”

 

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David Bagini thinks he’s a homicide detective who just woke up on a strange planet and is not particularly fond of clones or clone contracts. It actuality he’s the 42nd clone of David, created from a sample years old, who’s been given life for one reason: to find his original’s killer.

Prime Suspects is a neat blend of science fiction, mystery and police procedural. The world Bernheimer set up is imaginative and captivating, with long lines of clones of exceptional people acting as a type of indentured servant. David Forty-Two’s struggle to learn about the society he now lives in and his expected role is wonderfully told and nicely balanced with a suspenseful, twisting investigation.

I’m a big fan of all the genres touched upon in Prime Suspects, and really enjoyed the way they were blended. Add in an engrossing story, solid writing and unique characters and ideas and it’s an extremely interesting and compelling read.

 

Hellequin: Promise of Wrath Review

This is Nathan Garret’s sixth adventure. It’s a complete story on its own, but several long running plotlines are coming together in this penultimate book in the series. Do not start here – go back to Crimes Against Magic (book 1).

 

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The former and once again Hellequin, Nate Garrett, has gathered allies to respond to impending events that would threaten the balance of power in Avalon. His enemies have careful plans though, and things never go quite as Nate intends.

As usual for the the Hellequin series Promise of Wrath goes back and forth between the present and related events in Nate’s past. Various schemes of Nate’s enemies are building to a crescendo so there are a lot of important developments and reveals in all of the various times and places featured. Several long running themes and story threads come together here, as appropriate for the series’ penultimate adventure.

I found Promise of Wrath to be a bit of a return to form for the series after the last installment (Lies Ripped Open). That book was ok overall, but it felt a bit stagnant as well as ending with a development I didn’t care for at all in the context of the series. The plot recovers nicely here, with said development actually leading to unexpected and intriguing story points. I hope things continue in this vein in the final book rather than going with the climax I expected.

There are still a multitude of things to explain and deal with in the remaining book, but McHugh’s juggled a lot in each installment so far and I feel like he should be able to bring everything to a satisfactory conclusion. Looking forward to it and I hope things don’t run out of steam as this highly enjoyable series wraps up.