Newly licensed PI Garrett Willigins enjoys a bromance with roommate Merle, a talking dragon he just can’t train. In spite of Merle being warned not to entertain lady friends in Garrett’s bed when he is away, a telltale pink scale lies between the sheets. Merle and Garrett recently arrived in the realm of Vellia’s thriving community of Deep Cove, reaching “from the high sea cliffs of the fiefdom and sprawling eastwards.” This setting and the presence of a king and courts suggest medieval times, but Reed throws readers a curveball with the introduction of P.C., a clean-freak automaton sporting “a fine pink apron around his iron midriff.” Aided by P.C. and Merle, Garrett looks for ways to pay his rent. To that end, he’s hired by “local muscle” Mr. Kline to replace one of his workers, a fishmonger, who has disappeared. When Garrett discovers the worker’s crucified body, he swings into PI mode. All indications are that the head of the region’s Crime Syndicate, or someone close to him, committed the grisly murder. This is a constantly churning stew of a novel, a jumble of genre elements that often clash—a detective story, often bawdy humor, dashes of sci-fi, a pinch of romance and a heaping helping of mob violence. One of the narrative’s crimes is letting the plotline get muddled with divergent episodes and too many characters, some with modern-sounding names (Rudy Wilson, Daniel Kline, etc.) and others with Round Table–ish monikers (Pacorro, Oved, Rowgar, etc.). But Reed has a wonderful way with descriptions, and much of his book is just fun-to-read silliness, especially the parts featuring ogres and minotaurs. Before ogre Maury’s ukulele performance, he asks the crowd, “What do you call a minotaur with no legs? Ground Beef!” More levity, mystery and fantasy are in store; this is only the first of the Vellian Mysteries trilogy.
A potluck of genres that’s sometimes tasty, sometimes hard to swallow.