Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Unshapely Things by Mark Del Franco
I'd never run across Mr. Del Franco before this, and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to add another interesting author to my library. Unshapely Things (comes from a Yeats poem) is mostly about Connor Grey, a druid living in Boston a generation or two after The Convergence, when the fey and faeries, dwarves and trolls somehow were pushed into the mundane world. Connor was a very talented young man, and was working his way up through the ranks of he Ward Guild, a paranormal FBI of sorts, staffed by druids, mostly, when an encounter with an ecoterrorist left his mind blasted, and him unable to work more than the simplest of spells.
After his medical retirement - the Guild still maintains the wards on his apartment and pays him a small stipend - he joined forces with Leo Murdock, one of Boston's finest, who usually ends up investigating crimes in Boston's worst neighborhoods, such as the Weird. Murdock calls Grey in when there appears to be a supernatural component. As the story begins, the duo are investigating a series of murders that have a ritualistic element; the victims hearts have been taken. Despite his best research efforts, Connor is unable to find out about any magic rituals that use human hearts, and is unable to convince any of his old coworkers in the Guild that the murders are important...at first.
When the latest victim turns out to have powerful relatives, though, the Guild investigators sweep in and take the case away from the mundane police, and Connor is not supposed to be involved any further. It would be a short story if he didn't have a problem with authority. He and Leo continue to work the case, quietly, and eventually he finds out that a ritual will indeed take place, opening the gate for darker powers than the fey to enter this world.
A nice touch, I thought, was that De Franco uses Connor's disability and his attempts to regain his powers through studying about "essence" to take care of the necessary exposition on the nature of the magic system in place in the world of the Convergence. He also does a good job of developing the supporting cast, such as Murdock, Keeva, a power hungry former coworker, Meryl, a sarcastic research assistant, and Joe, a flit (like a male version of Tinkerbell), all with good back stories, and even families, in some cases.
Lots of twists and turns and blind corners and dead ends in this preternatural procedural. Fun dialog, fresh characters, and a sympathetic hero make De Franco well worth watching.