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This book is slightly outside of my usual reading list, since it's more mainstream than sci-fi/fantasy. It certainly has an SF&F flavor to it, as you'll see, but it still wouldn't be considered urban fantasy (even though it's close). I mostly got this book because I was the moderator on a panel at the San Diego Comic Con, and S.G. Browne was one of the panelists. I was doing some research on the panelists and read the first part of this book (about 50 pages) to get an idea of what it was about. I set it aside shortly after that, but it kept calling to me, so I picked it up recently, started it over again, and finished it off. The fact that I returned to it when I have probably a couple of hundred other books in the SF&F genre on my shelves waiting to be read tells you something about the book.
The premise is that the main character, Nick Monday, who is a private investigator with the ability to steal people's luck. Luck is something we're born with, and some of us have more inherent luck than others. Nick steals it by simply touching you (shaking your hand, etc), distills it, and then sells it on the black market. But Nick is about to have an incredibly bad day, which starts with a visit from Tuesday Knight, who wants him to find out who sole her father, the mayor's, luck. From there, it only goes from bad to worse as he's visited by the local chinese mafia, who want him to poach luck exclusively for them, and the government, who want him to hit the mafia kingpin with a dose of bad luck. All Nick wants to do is survive, without getting his sister and her family involved in his own wrongdoing.
Obviously, I got into the book within the first 50 pages, since I returned to it after the fact. The character is engaging, even though he isn't exactly "good". You can probably guess that it's sort of like a noir detective novel. It's got that flavor, with all of the Sam Spade-ish names, the mafia, the multiple twisting and interweaving plot threads, and the whole guns, PI, and women themes. I really enjoyed the twisting plot and the eye-rolling situations Nick got into during the course of the day (because the description above is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the plot lines). It had a nice humorous slant and the author certainly had fun playing with all of the puns dealing with luck out there. The writing was effortless to read and easy to follow.
There were a couple of minor annoyances. At a certain point, Nick's constant reference to bosoms got irritating, especially when in a few places that became his main motivating factor. I don't have a problem with this in general, but it was overused in the book. Also, there's a "framing" construction to the book (where it starts at the end of the day with a tense moment, then skips back to how the characters got there) and once we catch up to that frame . . . it wasn't as tense as the snippet at the beginning promised. To me. So the ending wasn't as fulfilling as I'd have liked. Good, but not great. Otherwise, this would have been 4 stars of out 5, instead of 3.
But still, the point of such a book isn't the ending, the point is the convoluted path that gets you there and the fun you have along the way as it twists and turns, and this book certainly delivers on that front. The idea behind the book--luck poaching--was a cool idea and I thought S.G. Browne carried it off well. Certainly a recommended read for those into noir detectives and some humorous play on the concept of luck.
Joshua Palmatier/Benjamin Tate
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