Monday, August 5, 2013

A Wonderful Terrible Novella

by Megan S.

Thugs don't get much respect in noir fiction; the big dumb goons are around to play the heavy and that's about it.  Not so in Stacia Kane's latest urban fantasy novella, Wrong Ways Down, a Terrible-centric story set in her Downside series (Chess Putnam).  In it, Kane takes her well-loved, laconic hired gun, Terrible, and deftly reveals a complex and nuanced antihero, exposing his innermost thoughts and feelings as he solves the mystery of who's targeting the women who work for his boss.  And, if you didn't have big warm fuzzies for the enforcer before, you will now.

If you aren't familiar with the Chess Putnam series, it takes place in a world whose past only recently diverged from our own when ghosts rose up one night and slaughtered innocent citizens, the government collapsed, and the Church of the Real Truth rose up to takes it's place.  Our heroine, Chess Putnam, works as a debunker for the Church, investigating cases and dispatching violent ghosts.  Chess turns to drugs to self-medicate and ends up owing the local drug lord big.  She agrees to work off her debt by partnering up with his enforcer, Terrible, to take care of supernatural problems. 

Wrong Ways Down takes place between the first and second novels in the five book series, soon after Terrible and Chess initially teamed up.  In the novella, Terrible must stop an unknown assailant from raping prostitutes and killing his boss's dealers.  Kane uses Terrible's point-of-view narration to highlight just how smart and sensitive he really is.  It's a fantastic change of pace when it comes to the portrayal of both thugs and male heroes in urban fantasy books.  The reason for Terrible's loyalty to a crime boss becomes more clear, his growing love for Chess is heart-warming, and the delicacy with which he approaches victims and innocent bystanders is completely realistic.

Terrible's dialect, however, may be hard for new readers to understand at first.  The patois, present in smaller amounts in the longer books, reminds me a bit of the Scottish-like dialect in Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men.  Don't struggle with understanding every word in the beginning, instead, let the cadence roll over you.  It will soon become second nature. 

Wrong Ways Down is on sale beginning today.  It's a wonderful addition to the Chess Putnam series and it's an excellent novella on it's own.

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