A jaded private detective in a monster-stricken city gets more than he bargained for when his client dies under suspicious circumstances.
From vampires to poltergeists to voodoo priests and zombies, the residents of San Monstruo—“THE CITY OF MONSTERS AND NIGHTMARES,” a highway sign reads—are anything but regular, and the regular people, or “regulars,” who live there are a strange bunch, too. Seemingly everyone is chased by their own versions of something worse than monsters and nightmares. Most of the monsters, however, are—despite their monstrous appearances, unconventional lifestyles and unsavory dietary preferences—actually not so scary; they’re just trying to make a living and even be upstanding citizens like anyone else. The city even puts the zombies (protective mouth guards securely fastened) to work as street sweepers. Like any city, San Monstruo has its share of criminals and lowlifes, though the underbelly feels a bit more threatening than most, thanks to the fangs, claws and all sorts of magic. As a former police detective, Vic Brahm used to make it his business to protect the city from an unusually grotesque brand of criminals, but after leaving the force, his only business now is with anyone willing to pay him for his PI work. When Mr. Chatha, a 4,000-year-old Egyptian, contracts Vic to investigate his wife Diane’s suspected infidelity, it seems like a pretty open-and-shut case—until Diane, after finding Vic’s card in Mr. Chatha’s desk, shows up at Vic’s office asking for his help investigating her husband’s alleged suicide. Meanwhile, Vic’s old partner from the force, a sasquatch named Jerry, is stuck trying to find the Riding Hood killer; he’d sure like Vic to help him out. In spite of being a fairly standard, sometimes-predictable detective novel in its character types and storylines, Cowlin’s debut still stands out as a worthwhile read. The well-built, horror-inspired world of San Monstruo offers just the right balance of humor and creepiness to keep readers on the edges of their seats without being quite terrified. The novel shines the most brightly, however, as the author explores what it means to be a monster. There’s one in everyone.
A fun read for PI aficionados and kitschy horror fans alike.