In this urban-fantasy adventure, a 44-year-old professional criminal decides to help a mysterious young woman—and gets pulled into a supernatural battle.
Len Doyle is a killer with standards who dislikes today’s nastier crime bosses. He’s plotting retirement until a troubled homeless girl named Briar warns him that “[a] blue suit might kill you today if you let it.” Using this tip, he beats up a Russian boss and his goon who were planning to kill him, then retreats with the mysterious Briar to a country hideaway. He soon discovers that Briar visits a supernatural plane in her dreams, where she’s attacked by demonic monsters and suffers real-life injuries. He also finds that by touching her, he can cross over into her dream and defend her, summoning weapons with his mind. He soon recruits some tough, reliable friends from the old days, and together, they fight a two-front battle with mundane but deadly Russian thugs on one side and nightmare demons on the other. In his debut novel, Proffet offers a brisk, exciting blend of crime action and fantasy warfare. The latter involves magic users, healers, warriors, and cool armor, as in a role-playing game; in both, the fighting is vivid, bloody, and often leavened with black humor. Running jokes, such as a succession of destroyed tea kettles, also help lighten the mood, as does Proffet’s slangy, punchy dialogue, which adds characterization and depth. For example, here’s Doyle’s response when a terrifying, 7-foot-tall, burning demon says that he can smell his fear: “If that’s what passes for an insult around here ya need to modernise, ya deep-fried lanky sack of dog shit.” The novel has some rough edges, but Doyle and his friends are unlikely but apt heroes—exactly who you’d want in a fight—and their camaraderie provides the novel with a big, beating heart: “Bravery and brotherhood above all, that was their creed and they would die to defend it. To them the choice was simple.”
A promising, deeply satisfying debut full of action, wit, and heart.