Monday, January 10, 2011
A Kiss Before the Apocalypse by Tom Sniegoski
After reading Mr. Sniegoski's novella in the Side Jobs Collection, I was eager to check out his Remy Chandler books a bit more thoroughly, and when I found this one at one of my old haunts, a used book store, I snatched it up immediately. The author has gone a completely different direction from the run of the mill urban fantasy out there; no elves, vampires, or wizards, but a whole troupe (or would one call it a flight?) of angels, instead.
Remy Chandler - Sniegoski makes no bones about his tribute to Raymond Chandler, and Remy has a dog named Marlowe - is a cynical private eye, who spends much of his time on routine surveillances of cheating spouses. He's not human, though. He's actually an angel who has gone AWOL from the heavenly host, slumming amongst humans for a few millenia. When a stakeout goes horribly wrong, and his subject shoots his secretary and himself in a motel room, Remy is probably the only detective on Earth who can really understand what happens next - neither of the victims actually die. Their souls refuse to depart their bodies, and they are left in horrible anguish in a local hospital, along with what rapidly grows to be a horde of other victims in the same situation. The Angel of Death, Israfil, has apparently gone on holiday.
In a related side plot, the human woman whom Remy fell in love with and married, is dying of cancer in a nursing home. He visits her almost every day. The staff there think she's his mother, rather than his wife, as Remy never visibly ages, and looks the same as he did centuries ago when he descended to Earth and took human form. Remy must come to terms with losing her at some point, and when he is "hired" by a group of Seraphim to find the missing Israfil, it puts a personal twist on things; when Death returns, his beloved Madeline will likely depart.
One fun little quirk in the book is that Remy is able to converse in all of the languages of beasts and men. He has a lot of conversations with his black lab, Marlowe. Sniegoski spends some time and effort creating the dog's side of the conversation and, as a long time owner of a black lab, I can say that he flat nails it.
A somewhat dark, at times, yet poignant tale, creating a new urban reality that I really enjoyed. Gotta keep an eye out for the next installment.