I know I tend to wax on and on about how much I love cozy mysteries because of how they can create a mystery filled with intrigue and tension without resorting to outright gore. Yeah, here’s the thing, sometimes gore can really add to the mystery. And by really add to the mystery, I mean keep my eyes glued to the page because holy crapballs he just ripped that guy’s arm off. I can’t lie, I absorbed this story. At just shy of 600 pages, I read this at a pace that’s usually reserved for much shorter books. Similarly to Patrick Rothfuss, one would expect a book of such length have a few sections here and there wherein the pacing slows, but it doesn’t. The monsters just keep coming and the action never lets up. I was actually surprised a few times when I would glance down to check the page number, only to find myself 100 pages farther than I expected. The story is told with the kind of skill that blots out the real world, leaving you with a gritty, gut clenching tale of monsters and those who fight to keep the rest of us safe.
Homicide detective Bryan Clauser is losing his mind. How else to explain the dreams he keeps having—dreams that mirror, with impossible accuracy, the gruesome serial murders taking place all over San Francisco? How else to explain the feelings these dreams provoke in him—not disgust, not horror, but excitement.
As Bryan and his longtime partner, Lawrence “Pookie” Chang, investigate the murders, they learn that things are even stranger than they at first seem. For the victims are all enemies of a seemingly ordinary young boy—a boy who is gripped by the same dreams that haunt Bryan. Meanwhile, a shadowy vigilante, seemingly armed with superhuman powers, is out there killing the killers. And Bryan and Pookie’s superiors—from the mayor on down—seem strangely eager to keep the detectives from discovering the truth.
Doubting his own sanity and stripped of his badge, Bryan begins to suspect that he’s stumbled into the crosshairs of a shadow war that has gripped his city for more than a century—a war waged by a race of killers living in San Francisco’s unknown, underground ruins, emerging at night to feed on those who will not be missed.
And as Bryan learns the truth about his own intimate connections to the killings, he discovers that those who matter most to him are in mortal danger…and that he may be the only man gifted—or cursed—with the power to do battle with the nocturnals.
It’s not often that an author molds their hero and their villain with the same care and attention. You rarely get any origin at all for a villain. This is what makes this story so truly singular. You will know the villain and the hero to the same extent. You will have felt sympathy and frustration for both characters. You will have wanted both to succeed at some point in the tale. Yeah, how often do I get to write those words. (Almost never.) It’s because you become so involved in these characters lives that the story comes to life.
What makes the story go by at Mach 25, however, is the monsters. These characters that you invest in are magnificent, yes, but throw them in a city with monsters and the ambiguity of Bryan’s association with them and you have pages flying by so quickly they generate a stiff breeze. And the diversity of the monsters is just wonderful. Sure, you have your garden variety snake-man, but that’s not where in ends. Not to mention the fact that Sigler goes to the trouble to make them realistic. He explains the biology behind them, down to the Mendelian genetics. He tied the scientific exposition in in a way that wasn’t galling or boring. It fit in perfectly with the cop procedural aspect to it.
As to that cop procedural aspect, it’s pretty flipping amazing. It added even more grit to an already gritty tale and amped the tension up that much more. It’s perfection.
I know I’m gushing, so I’m going to bring things to an end. This story goes beyond the usual aphorisms of stomach clenching and gut ripping. It’s like putting a cracked out 500 lb gorilla in a china shop. Something’s going to break and you’re going to want to see it.
4.5 ink bottles.
Character Believability: 4.5 Buffys
Character Investibility: 4.5 Doctors
Pacing/Urgency/Tension: 4.5 Dresdens
Worldbuilding: 4 Snyders
Language: 4.5 Feegles
Mystery: 4.5 Sherlocks
Book Trailer: (Not for the faint of heart, but then again, the same goes for the book.)