2016 is off to an excellent start with Daniel José Older’s Midnight Taxi Tango, the second Bone Street Rumba novel and the sequel to last year’s Half-Resurrection Blues.
Carlos Delacruz is the half-dead/half-alive hero in the ongoing drama of his own half-dead life: he has no recollections of how or when he died, he is not even sure his name is Carlos. And after the events in Half-Resurrection Blues, when Sasha, the woman he loves walked away from his life, he feels like he is more dead than alive.
What keeps him going is his work as an agent for the Council of the Dead and when a string of ghostly—and deadly—accidents happen in Brooklyn, he is on the case.
Kia is Carlos’ friend, the super astute teen who works at Baba Eddie’s botánica and who ends up being in the middle of one of those accidents that Carlos is investigating. An accident that grants her the dubious gift of being able to see ghosts; an accident that might not be an accident at all—and that might be connected to her beloved cousin’s disappearance years ago.
In the meantime, around town, people are vanishing. Reza’s girlfriend was one of them and when a recent job lands one of her girls in deadly trouble, Reza realises that there is some serious shit going down in the underworld. With cockroaches. Weird, pink cockroaches.
Then Sasha comes back.
Carlos, Kia, and Reza share the viewpoint narrative, and as the chapters alternate between them, the three plotlines converge and merge into a three-people tango beautifully orchestrated by Daniel José Older. I loved Half-Resurrection Blues for many reasons—the sharp writing that takes a look at what it means to be an Urban Fantasy heroine or hero while being brown, the strength of the plot, and Carlos’ strong voice and his hilarious old-school charm—but I had one major criticism which was the lack of well-developed women within the narrative. We had glimpses of them with Kia and Sasha, but overall, I felt that first book to have a strong male gaze.
In Midnight Taxi Tango those problems fade away, addressed and solved with aplomb: there is an orgasmic number of women here. All of them awesome. All of them complex human beings with their own motivations, histories, desires, and hopes. All of them I want to be friends with and sit down to have a chat with. (OK, maybe not Reza so much as she is a bit terrifying.) In fact, Carlos takes a bit of a back seat here and it makes perfect sense. He is not entirely himself. He is not seeing or thinking straight since Sasha left him. The problems and the mysteries are solved by the team as they all come together to help.
In other words: what the author does here is use with great deft one of my favorite tropes ever: the found family. All of these disparate human beings, from different backgrounds, some of them more dead than alive, come together to work as a team, saving each other, having each other’s backs, and sometimes even just being there to listen and to hug. It is the best thing in the world.
There are just enough happy endings here to satisfy but with a couple of pending mysteries and possible vendettas to keep us wanting more. Dear Mr. Older, can I have approximately a million more books in the series? Just…not all of them with cockroaches. Please and thank you.
In Book Smugglerish: 8 out of 10 and leaning toward 9