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100 Books in a Year #74: Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy

By Brian Prisco | Books | April 24, 2009 |

By Brian Prisco | Books | April 24, 2009 |

I really wanted to like this book more, but it felt to me like a particularly effective version of someone trying to bank on the Harry Dresden crazy. You like vampire hunters and wizard detectives? How about a shaman cop? It felt like something a housebound librarian/English major — and definitely a femme one — would scribble in her dream journal. It’s stuffed with all the elements that make the quiet girls shudder: Celtic mysticism, Native American folklore, tall gangly women who aren’t good at relationships. It’s set in Seattle, so Murphy feels obligated to mention coffee every five chapters.

It’s established exactly like everything in this ilk, namely the fantasy books with a romance-level pose of some long haired brunette in jeans with some sort of tramp stamp inked on her back. Joanne Walker nee Siobhan Walkingstick, a mechanic for the police, mysteriously spies a woman fleeing a pack of dogs and a long-coated menace from her descending plane. She tracks the woman — through preposterous logic — and ends up getting murdered in a diner by the God Cernunnos, who leads the Wild Hunt. Of course, she gets better.

The book’s clumsily well-written, in that Murphy’s done her share of reading of the genre and is able to burp it up with a klutzy charm. The story spurts like a faulty tram car from plot point to plot point, lurching in and out of the fantastic in some manner aping that of the reluctant mystic. What I like most about Dresden — and even Anita Blake back in the day and Sookie Stackhouse — was that the weird began earlier. We stepped in the story in the middle of them working shit out. It wasn’t this awful sort of tutorial first video game level style of “I’m still learning my powers and what the B button does here” motif. We’re supposed to feel and stumble along with Joanne as she pairs up with Gary the portly old cabby and Bruce, who’s a (hold on to your hats!) cross-dressing mystical believing detective!

It’s not a bad book, just sort of a TBS copy of a better book. Jo spends most of her time falling down and falling in love. Her dialogue’s not as quippy as Murphy thinks it is. And it gets all herky-jerky when it moves from fantasy to reality. It’s part of a series called The Walker Papers, and I’ll give it a fighting chance. I mean, I decided to maybe pick up the fucking Anita Blake’s again after I threw them down in disgust. Maybe this just wasn’t my cup o’ tea. But I bet some of you harridans will just eat it like that other piece of cake you don’t need.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here.

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