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Book Review- “Dark Sacred Night” by Michael Connelly

November 11, 2018 Leave a comment

Dark Sacred NightI’m a life long fan of superhero comics, and one of the reasons for that is because of the idea of the shared universe; where diverse characters like Superman and Batman or Captain America and Wolverine can cross paths, have misunderstandings, and even team up to fight evil. Watching those characters with clearly established voices and ideas clash and come together leads to fun and fascinating stories. So I was pretty excited early on to see the idea of a shared universe pop up in a much more realistic, gritty, and grounded setting; the crime novels of Michael Connelly. Connelly has made great use of the dynamic between his original series character Harry Bosch and Bosch’s half brother, the Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller. And in his latest novel “Dark Sacred Night” he introduces readers to a new and fascinating dynamic; the one between Harry Bosch and the writer’s newest creation LAPD Detective Renee Ballard, who readers first met last year in “The Late Show.” The result is a pretty powerful crime novel that enriches both characters.

Dark Sacred Night” is both a team up story and a tale about Bosch and Ballard’s separate worlds. That’s established early on as the first few chapters are from Ballard’s point of view. The next few are from Bosch’s and then Connelly alternates perspectives throughout the book. It gives the story a nice flow and really allows the reader to get deep into the heads of both protagonists. Ballard is in a better place after “The Late Show.” Harry though is still dealing with some of the fallout from the end of Connelly’s last Bosch novel “Two Kinds of Truth.” Plus he’s also having to contend with the fact that he’s getting older and only has so many years left as a police detective.

If you’re coming to “Dark Sacred Night” having only read “The Late Show” you connelly1222won’t be lost. Connelly does a great job catching new readers up on what Bosch is dealing with. If you’re a Bosch fan though it’s nice to see some connective tissue from the last book, and it makes “Dark Sacred Night” even more emotionally resonant. And if you’re a Bosch fan whose not familiar yet with Renee Ballard “Dark Sacred Night” is a great introduction to the character. After you complete it you’ll want to circle back and pick up “The Late Show.”

Much of the action in “Dark Sacred Night” involves Bosch and Ballard coming together to work a cold case, but their investigations are often disrupted by their regular jobs. Renee’s work almost plays out as sort of an anthology of interrelated short stories. You get to see her tackle several different things that pop up during Hollywood’s late night hours. It makes for some pretty fun and insightful reading into what an LAPD detective has to deal with. Bosch’s solo portions of the novel deal with his work for the San Fernando Police Department where he investigates the cold case murder of shot caller in a local gang. That investigation spirals out of control and takes Harry to some dark and dangerous places.

So Bosch’s journey as a character in “Dark Sacred Night” is especially poignant, powerful and epic. It changes him. Ballard also grows. So like the best team up stories “Dark Sacred Night” leaves both of its heroes in very interesting places. I can’t wait to see where Connelly takes them next.

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Categories: Book Review, Harry Bosch

Book Review- Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

November 8, 2018 Leave a comment

Meddling KidsOne of the reasons I love speculative and genre fiction is the crazy over the top premises. You see it all the time in comics like Marvel’s “Weapon H” series which features a titular character with the powers of both the Hulk and Wolverine or the company’s “Cosmic Ghost Rider” mini-series where the Punisher has been given both the demonic powers of the Ghost Rider and the cosmic might of a Herald of Galactus. Those series work because they full on embrace the fun of their premises and they ground their stories with fascinating and real feeling characters. I just finished reading a prose novel that did the same thing; Edgar Cantero’s “Meddling Kids which is essentially Scooby-Doo meets the Cthulhu mythos. And yes it’s as crazy and as fun as it sounds.

In “Meddling Kids” Cantero introduces readers to an estranged group of friends who spent their summers investigating the mysteries of a small pacific Northwest Town named Blyton Hills. Their investigative endeavors lead them to become local celebrities and also exposed the wrongdoings of a number of costume clad malefactors. When the story picks up, the now adult members of the former Blyton Summer Detective Club are haunted by the memories of their last case, which seemed to involve a lake monster and a haunted island mansion, but possibly involved something much more horrific.

The cast of former kid detectives is pretty great. There’s Kerri, the aspiring scientistEdgar Cantero who is currently a barmaid; Andy the tomboy turned drifter who sets out to get the gang back together and find out what really happened at the mansion on their last case; Keri’s cousin Nate, who is currently a resident of an asylum that fans of Cthulhu Mythos fiction will find familiar; and Peter who is dead and might be a ghost. All of these characters have fun personality traits and character flaws. The dynamic they have together is part of the fun of reading “Meddling Kids.”

Earlier I mentioned this book was basically Scooby-Doo meets Cthulhu so many of you might be wondering is there a dog main character? And the answer is of course, yes! His name is Tim. He’s a Weimaraner. He’s actually one of my favorite characters in the book. Cantero writes him so well. He provides moments of comfort and comedy. He’s so lovable and such a good boy.

A dog isn’t the only Scooby-Doo element to make it into “Meddling Kids” either. The Blyton Hills Detective Club had a number of Rube Goldberg style plans for catching bad guys. And some do appear in their present day exploits. They’re fun and believable though and add some humor elements to balance out the Lovecraftian horror.

Cantero also makes great use of the Cthulhu Mythos once the kids arrive back in Blyton Hills. It begins with a run in with a horrific monstrosity and then things escalate to apocalyptic levels. So there’s a great sense of scope and scale reminiscent of shows like “Stranger Things”where the cast have to save both their idyllic small town and the world.

Speaking of towns, Blyton Hills is a fun place to visit. When the grown up kids of the Detective Club return it’s fallen on hard times, but still has a quaint charm. It feels like home to both the characters and the reader. Plus, Cantero provies a lot of fun legends about the town to make the Cthulhu mythos elements organic. The town is also populated by a great cast of characters including a former bully, and Captain Al, a retired Air Force veteran who was one of the detectives few adult confidants when they were kids.

I’m keeping mum about a lot of the elements in “Meddling Kids” because I don’t want to ruin the surprises. I will say though it’s an incredibly fun, fantastically placed cocktail of horror, adventure, and comedy. And it also takes a refrshing and more hopeful spin on the cynicism of Lovecraftian Cosmic Horror. It beautifully illustrates that the best defense we humans have against horror (Cosmic or otherwise) is the bonds we have with each other.

So, “Meddling Kids” was a hell of a read. Making it even more remarkable is the fact that Cantero is not a native English speaker. This is the first book I’ve read by him and I can’t wait to read more.

Categories: Book Review