The debut novel from Australian actor Arnold is a fusion of paranormal fantasy and mystery set in a world where magic has been effectively destroyed by humans, forcing the supernatural population to live a radically diminished existence.
Fetch Phillips is a “Man for Hire,” which is another way of saying the down-on-his-luck, hard-drinking former Soldier–turned-detective will do just about anything to pay the bills. When a principal from a cross-species school enlists him to find a missing professor—a 300-year-old Vampire named Edmund Rye—Phillips quickly agrees. Without magic, the Vampires—and all other supernatural beings—are slowly dying. So how difficult could it be to find a withered bloodsucker who is so weak he can hardly move around? After visiting Rye’s last residence—a secluded loft space in the local library filled with the Vampire’s research and writings—Phillips discovers that one of Rye’s students is missing as well: a young Siren named January. His investigation becomes complicated when more Vampires turn up dead and he is almost killed himself. While the mystery element of the storyline is a bit thin, the focus on meticulous worldbuilding and highly detailed backstory as well as the cast of fully developed and memorable characters (Simms, the reptilian cop; Peteris, the disfigured half-werewolf; etc.) are unarguable strengths. But the real power here is in Arnold’s use of imagery throughout. His unconventional descriptive style brings a richness and depth to the narrative. Pete’s smile is “like a handbag with a broken zipper,” and the sound of Phillips’ falling from a building is “like someone stepping on an egg full of snails.”
The first installment of an effortlessly readable series that could be the illegitimate love child of Terry Pratchett and Dashiell Hammett.