Friday, March 23, 2018

Hell's Detective by Michael Logan

Kat was a private detective when she was alive. It was a dirty job, but she did it well - until one night it all went wrong

And it’s a night she relives over and over again in Lost Angeles - a cute name for hell. A place where she can never forget that terrible moment when everything went wrong

But also a place, for all its chaos and violence, where her skills are still in high demand. Even the secretive administrators of this hell want to recruit her - and offer some respite which is the most anyone can want from hell… but the stakes are high and who can she trust? In hell, can she trust anyone?

This review is hard to write - because some of the things I love the most is the world building and the twists connected to this world building. We have a lot of debate about the nature of hell, a lot of questions and a lot of debate as to which of the various factions are telling the truth, who is who, what powers they have and who can be trusted among the dross and doublecross.

And I can’t talk about any of it without including massive spoilers!!!! But it’s so excellent - the twists, the debates, how Kat tries to navigate through this despite the huge stakes involved. She has to choose who to trust with so much on the line - and those stakes even eclipse her own personal advantage

The way Hell works is fascinating - Lost Angeles, a city where you can’t leave, where you can’t die. A city with resources enough to continue indulging all the sins that got you there in the first place - but a city without rules, a city without any reassurances or security. And a city where, every night, everyone relives their worst sin, that which torments them with guild the most.

And a city where people eventually disappear.

It’s an interesting concept of hell in and of itself, this Lost Angeles. But as you learn more about it as Kat investigates we get more and more answers and more and more twists that really elevates Hell above what we see in the surface - as well as the nature of demons, god etc  - and I can’t talk about any of it without spoiling this excellent book!

We have Kat as our protagonist, tough, smart, as good as she can be, as hard as she needs to be, all without any unnecessary super-power issues: she’s very human but also very skilled. And while we lack the corny voice over, she does have a lot of the classic noir traits - the hard drinking, the cynicism and the heart of gold under it all. I liked her a lot, she was just a perfect rough diamond, no longer shiny but the sparkle is still there. Following her investigation through all its twists and turns was an excellent way to both examine the city and factions, build the world and learn so much about her and how she works

Diversitywise we do have a number of POC at every angle - her best friend and contact is Enitan, a Black Nigerian man (and probably the most developed character after Kat herself). He’s educated a great source of knowledge but definitely not a servant to Kat - he has his own agendas though i would appreciate them developed more. Some of the big bosses who run the city are POC as well and one of the main contacts in the case is a Latino man. There are definitely layers of racial diversity in the book. There are no LGBTQ characters - but there are gay jokes and throw away lines casting scorn on gay men which add little to the book

Kat was a woman who wanted to become a cop - in a much more sexist time. And being determined and refusing to be sidelined she became a PI as well. I like in her past how we see her fighting against sexism, how she had to make more concessions to it to navigate sexism (taking a lot of cheating spouse cases dressing in a more overtly masculine manner) ultimately we see a woman who is determined to do what she wants to do and is very good at that despite the sexism she faces. And it’s interesting how she doesn’t face as much in Lost Angeles, because, ultimately, there are enough savage, dangerous and terrifying woman in hell that people lose these preconceptions quickly.

And while we definitely have a number of sex workers, there’s no overt shaming of them for sex work at all. And the take on snuff films is very very surprising.

The nature of the sins concerns me though - I mean people are being punished for these sins but some of them need exploring more. I’m especially leery about suicide being considered a sin given the level of pain and illness that often underlies that. We also have people who appear to be banished to hell for non-coercive sexual sins (promiscuity and prostitution are both cast as sinful) and we have a lot of gambling. A lot of these are representing vices, of course - but they do seem to be sins that people have actually been condemned for. Which kind of makes me want to give this god a slap upside the head.

More. More more more more. The extremely original setting, the compelling, hardboiled female noir character. The cynicism, the hope, the extra twists and, above all, the ending? That awesome, excellent twisty ending? I want more. It is so set up for more. This whole plot has set us up for a truly excellent series - more more more more! This excellent foundation is demanding something more be built upon it.