May 29, 2020

Fables of Tonight.

Note: This week’s installment was written by our guest SciFi reviewer extraordinaire, Sabrina Fobes!

In 1987, Michael Resnick introduced a new gumshoe to the literary world.  It’s New Year’s Eve and John Justin Mallory is alone in his Manhattan office, hiding from his rent demanding landlord; bemoaning the loss of his wife to his partner; drinking bourbon and generally reflecting on a truly unmemorable year.

It’s into this emotional miasma that a belligerent elf named Murgensturm enters to plea for Mallory’s help in retrieving a stolen unicorn –  a unicorn whose loss could cause the elf his life if not found by morning.  When Mallory is finally convinced the elf and his dilemma are real, the fun begins.

Mallory goes to an alternative Manhattan, the “…Manhattan you see out of the corner of your eye.”, with the same map and sites as the Manhattan he knows, but with very different residents and very different rules.

He befriends a cat girl named Felina, who is a big help in his quest to solve the mystery of the unicorn.  He finds himself challenged by the alternate Manhattan’s “big bad” known as “The Grundy”, and is frequently finding himself rewriting the rules of his trade as he moves toward solution.

Along the way is a lot of humor and even some not so subtle social commentary.  The twists and turns are every bit as engaging as in a mystery set in traditional Manhattan.  The novel leaves us satisfied with the solution and also craving more travel with John Justin.

Segue to real time year 2008.  The long-awaited sequel is here!  The reader is reintroduced to John Justin Mallory who has now set up shop in the alternative Manhattan. Felina the cat-girl is a friend, pet, and member of staff.  Also, the big game hunter Colonel Winnifred Carruthers, who Mallory saved from a dreary retirement in Stalking the Unicorn, is working beside Mallory in his crime solving endeavors.

It is Halloween when Winnifred’s nephew arrives with two tell-tale holes in his neck and then later in the day turns up dead.  The quest is to find whodunnit and beat the challenges along the way.  The Grundy has become an uneasy ally to Mallory, who has successfully assisted The Grundy in recent history, and is  helping with the hunt for the offending vampire.

Add to the team a crime-novel-writing dragon pen named Scaly Jim Chandler, and a vampire who doesn’t care much for blood (but a good glass of tomato juice goes a long way) , and you have the basis for another good time.

Again, Resnick’s acid wit and clean, unadorned style make this a delightful read.

I, for one, hope I don’t have to wait 22 years for the next installment!