John Taylor is a private detective. And not a very successful one, given his mounting debts and declining business. He used to be very good – 5 years ago when he was still in the Nightside where his ability, to be able to find anything, actually worked.
But the Nightside is a dangerous place, where literally anything and everything can exist. Wizards and aliens, monsters and demons, ghosts and gods – anything imaginable is in there somewhere; and John is well clear of it.
Except he has a client who is willing tom give him an awful lot of money to find her daughter – in the Nightside. Against his many reservations he finds himself plunging back into this fantastic world, the dark underbelly of London, to face old enemies and old allies, from the sinister to the sublime to the ridiculous. The investigation is dangerous, horrifying, fantastic and macabre, with new revelations even he never imagined, and a threat far greater than he expected. But it does feel like coming home…
This world is one of the strangest, deepest and weirdest I’ve ever come across. Everything you can imagine – absolutely everything – can exist in the Nightside. From aliens and their abductions to gods, to extra-dimensional entities to ghosts to the fae to werecreatures to everything else imagineable. There are timeless pockets where you can drink old style Coca-cola in an eternally 60s café, there are dark and dangerous streets where even the architecture will eat people. There are cars, carriages and other conveyances that will eat people and old hansom cabs pulled by talking horses.
This book has some amazingly fun characters. John Taylor himself is a hard boiled detective with all that means – the good, but very little of the bad. We hear some of his past, enough to make him interesting, menacing and a bit scary, but not enough to destroy his mystery. He is a bit of a Gary Stu in the way everyone is in awe of his power and reputation and his power does have some severely extreme applications. But he also has his considerable limits and there’s a suggestion, at least, that part of his reputation is inflated. It is a powerfest though – but that can be fun. I also appreciate a character with a good grasp of quips and sarcasm.
The writing hits that perfect balance for me when it comes to pacing. Even though it’s quite a short book, the descriptions and exposition are vivid enough to give a strong sense of place – which is especially important when we have a world that relies so much on its alien, fantastic quality. But it isn’t bogged down or distracted, the action keeps coming – never in an overwhelming fashion (the characters themselves actually get overwhelmed and need a break) but event after event, each balancing the description and the exposition and every one of them having some kind of plot. Whether to introduce clearly important characters, to establish a meta plot, move the main plot forwards or provide essential world explanation, every part of this book is necessary. Because of that it doesn’t feel short, it feels concise – just as long as it needs to be.