Unshapely Things by Mark Del Franco

Unshapely Things
Mark Del Franco

Cover: I find it interesting how many covers this cover model, Nathan Kamp is on. I think it's over 400, many of them romance novels, and now he's on an urban fantasy. He's everywhere! And yes, I recognize his face now, as I suspect many readers do. Oh and there is a blog that tracks this. Let me find the link…. I see, only on the top of the list when I google his name – here. This fascinates me. Maybe I should add a tag – Nathan Kamp cover, along with my butt-shot cover tag… I like this cover by the way, I think it hints at what the book's about pretty well.

What's going on in this book: Connor Grey is an ex-druid mage. He used to be a big shot in the Guild, catching criminals left and right, and not really treating people he worked with really nicely because he was too caught up with being a rising star. But – a magical injury that blocks most of his power lost him his job, his apartment, and most of his friends, and Connor becomes suddenly and uncomfortably aware of what type of person he was. Now he lives off his pension and a small stipend he receives from the police department for helping them with cases related to fae that the big-shots at The Guild can't be bothered to take. The latest case involves a string of nasty murders against some fairy prostitutes.

Why I got it: This is book of the month over at the league blog, and a new to me author (actually this is his first novel).

What I thought: Well this was a police procedural first of all, except with some unusual types of people as the victims (male fairy prostitutes), the murderer, and the people after him (Connor and his cop friend Murdock). What was most interesting to me was that Connor is going through a rebirth – he's weak and handicapped now and you feel his frustration at not being able to do things he used to do, but he's learning how to deal with this. He's learning how to treat people better as well. Several of the secondary characters point out that he burned bridges when he was powerful, and now he has to rebuild them. This redemption was a strong storyline and something I want to see more of in the next books. Also because of it, I think we have some strong secondary characters that interact with Connor (ex-coworkers, his mentor, his partner Murdock, his flit friend Joe). It seems to me like his fall is an opportunity to get to know these people who are still sticking by him better and we start to see that. I would love to see this continue.

The other thing I liked is the strong sense of the place that everything happens. A gritty Boston that I had no problems visualizing (even though I don't find Boston this dark in real life!). Alleyways and bars and slums in a section friendly to the fae called The Weird, where tourists like to go and gawk at the locals. I could see it clearly in my mind reading this book.

And now my complaint! There is so much focus on Connor and it IS from his point of view that we see very little of the villian of this piece. In the end I saw a glimpse of who he was and what he was trying to do, but it was confusing and fleeting compared to how well Connor was drawn. I think there was some opportunity to really show a compelling picture of this bad guy but there wasn't really enough time. Everyone else was very well written and two dimensional, maybe this is why I even noticed, but I think it would have made this book stronger. So much was focussed on Connor and his past that the rest of it – finding the bad guy, wasn't in the forefront, and this made the pacing slower for me. I can see this as being a good foundation of what's to come though.

Book 2 is Unquiet Dreams and it came out in January 2008. There's a little hint of whats to come from book 1 so I'd like to see how things go with Connor.

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