My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read this in college over thirty years ago. I reread it for the popsugar challenge this year and it’s not really gotten much better in the intervening decades. This would have been better as a novella but who am I to argue with something that spent half a year at the top of a bestseller list.
Billy Halleck knows he’s gotten off easy after accidentally killing an old gypsy woman who had jaywalked. He’s not going to prison or have any charges filed. He’s not losing his driver’s license nor his license to practice law. However, on the courtyard steps an old gypsy whose nose has rotted off, touches his cheek and says only one word, ‘Thinner.’
Billy thinks it’s a joke. Heck he’d like to be thinner since it’s pushing 300 pounds and has been warned he’s in ‘heart attack country.’ After all it wasn’t his fault (and unlike some reviewers who think he was a bad person, I don’t. I think he abuses the system but it wasn’t an intentional crime). But then the pounds melt off at an alarming rate. Billy, his wife Heidi and daughter Linda all think something is seriously wrong like cancer.
The doctor’s find nothing and Billy slowly begins to truly believe in the gypsy’s curse. We learn the details of the crime. Heidi was giving him a hand job while he was driving. If it was written today it would have been him texting. It was distracted driving ending up in vehicular manslaughter but his buddies fixed it (though I’m still not sure why the cop didn’t do a alcohol/drug test since it would have been okay). Now those buddies are also suffering mystery aliments.
Determined not to die, Billy uses a private investigative firm and then another friend, a mob enforcer, to help find the gypsies and force them to remove the curse. This takes him from Connecticut to Maine (naturally) and yeah, it does go on overly long. I hated the end though It was so stupid horror movie sort of ending it hurt. It wasn’t bad but it’s not the best King out there (though I remember the uproar when people learnt Bachman was a pseudonym).
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Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Several friends wanted me to read this one and I only regret waiting so long. This was great. Sure, it has a lot of the standard urban fantasy tropes, but it uses them well and has a lot of great stuff added in (and this would have been a better review had I time to review it weeks ago when I finished this). I don’t know why in America the title of Rivers of London was changed to Midnight Riot other than maybe they thought it was too UK-centric for us. (granted there IS a riot, but the rivers play a huge role too). I loved the protagonist, Peter, a biracial man which that alone makes it different from three quarters of all the urban fantasy out there.
Peter Grant is a freshly minted constable who dreams of being a London detective but ends up assigned to the Case Progression Unit, a tedious paper pushing sort of police work (while his good friend Leslie gets assigned a plum job with a notable Detective Chief Inspector. Supremely disappointed Peter is left wondering if he made the right choice in becoming a cop then one night he finds himself talking to an informant who just so happens to be a ghost. This psychic ability brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale who takes him under his wing and away from the boring division he had been assigned.
Nightingale turns out to be a wizard and Peter is now his apprentice. He and Nightingale tackle a series of bizarre, deadly crimes from the magical angle while Leslie and her boss go at it from the more traditional pathway. In the middle of all this Nightingale and Peter have to mediate between the Rivers. One of the most interesting parts of this is that the rivers of London have human demi-gods? Spirits? Let’s go with beings of power, a matriarchy on one end of the river and a patriarchy on the other. The Rivers are fascinating especially the young Beverly who gets very close to Peter. All of them are very well-rounded characters, even the brief glimpses we have of Peter’s heroin-addicted Jazz playing father.
I loved Peter and his sense of snarky humor is great without being over the top. Nightingale is the hardest to get close to but he’s still very interesting. I can’t wait to read more of this.
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