Odd, flavorsome, sometimes irksomely nebulous hybrid of mystical fantasy and urban police thriller, from Brust (The Phoenix Guards (Brust) and Lindholm (Cloven Hooves). In Lakota, Ohio, veteran cop Stepovich and his irritating young partner Durand unwillingly become involved in a series of killings, apparently connected: in one case the murder weapon is a distinctive gypsy knife; in another the victim is an old gypsy fortuneteller. Stepovich arrests a confused suspect and takes a knife from him, but some sort of psychic connection is established: Stepovich knows the man isn't guilty and fails to turn in the knife, and soon the suspect mysteriously vanishes from jail. Turns out that the man, a Hungarian gypsy named Csucskari, exists in both the physical and spiritual worlds; he is waiting for the coming of the devil—in this instance, a horrid female devil named Luci, the Fair Lady, who has ensorcelled a number of young people and threatens to drown the world in darkness. Csucskari's purpose is to oppose her, but first he must join with his musician brothers Raymond and Daniel, and obtain a psychic assist from another necessary participant, the Coachman. Stepovich is psychically involved, too, as are Durand and Stepovich's former partner Ed; Stepovich's teenaged daughter is one of Luci's victims. The affair will result in a desperate battle on the spiritual plane, as cops and gypsies struggle to overcome Luci and her thralls and minions. Gritty and particularly convincing police work, but the conspicuously overblown mystical baggage hinders comprehension and impedes the narrative. Often absorbing and impressive, then, with outstanding characters; would that the authors had restrained their impulses toward self-indulgent ethnic embroidery.
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