A collection of urban fantasy short stories.
Publication year: 2009
Page count: 320
This collection has 16 stories, all in some way related to UF. Most of them were a twist on a familiar story. Most of the have been written in first person.
”Web Ginn House” by Phaedra Weldon: Zoe Martinique earn her living by astral projection. She spies on people or places and gets paid for it. She’s sent to spy on a haunted house but when a ghost busters type of people are in at the same time, things go terribly wrong. It’s written in a Valley Girl type of language and the main character doesn’t seem to be terribly bright.
”The Hex Is In” by Mike Resnick: Someone is using magic and making improbable things happen in various sports events. This isn’t good for the bookies. So, they’re going to find out who that person is and make him pay. Written in a pulp crime style.
”If Vanity Doesn’t Kill Me” by Michael A. Stackpole: The main character is called to a crime scene because his mother’s husband has been killed. The main character is a former detective and he uses his inborn talent to investigate even though he’s not in good standing with his family. They’re religious and think that all people with magical talent are devil’s spawn.
”Witness to the Fall” by Jay Lake: A man has been murdered in a small village. The local preacher has been accused of it and the preacher’s daughter asks for the local Truthsayer to listen to the winds and decide if he is guilty or not. A pretty story with a lot of flowery language but unsatisfying to mystery fans.
”The Best Defense” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: John Lundgren is a public defender and despite his huge case load, he’s assigned to defending Mr. Palmer who is accused of arson. When John hears of Palmer’s poor treatment by the police, he thinks it’s easy to win the case. However, Palmer claims to be a wizard.
”Call of the Second Wolf” by Steven Mohan, Jr.: Valeri Kozlov works for to the Russian Mafia as the boss’s right hand. Unfortunately, a war is brewing between the Chinese Mafia and the Russian Mob, and Valeri is sent to smooth things out and figure out who is behind it.
”The Old Girlfriend of Doom” by Dean Wesley Smith: One of Poker Boy’s adventures. Poker Boy has superpowers which can be only used in a Casino. An old girlfriend comes asking for help: gray aliens are trying to steal her fake boobs. Poker Boy knows about the threat and it’s real but the only way to get out of it is by taking the silicon off and the former girlfriend doesn’t want to do that. Very funny and not a mystery.
”Second Sight” by Ilsa J. Bick: Jason Saunders is a detective who has the Sight. However, he hasn’t been trained to use it so it not entirely under his control. A young white slave and prostitute Lily has apparently gone berserk and killed her pimp. When Jason is sent to the hospital, he sees a drunk man with strange tattoos and even weirder things. This story had quite a complicated magic system which seems to use Jewish mysticism.
”The True Secret of Magic, Only $1.98, Write Box 47, Portland, ORE” by Joe Edwards: This is a sweet and melancholy story set in 1963. Ella Redheart is a mail-order fortune teller and quite an old woman. A postal inspector catches her in a fraud but he isn’t interested in busting her; instead he wants some information from her. Ella’s father’s spirit tells her some things some time in answer to questions and she’s learned to be cautious in what to tell other people.
”The Sweet Smell of Cherries” by Devon Monk: An Allison Beckstrom story. I haven’t read her books but I’ve heard about them. Allie tries to decline a job to track down a missing person but ends up being involved anyway.
”Eye Opening” by Jason Schmetzer: Eddie Timmer has the ability to see through solid objects and he’s using it for crime. He’s tried to go to the straight and narrow but something always happens to stop that. This time, he and his partner have been hired to ”retrieve” some rings but things go so badly wrong that Eddie’s partner ends up killed and when Eddie runs to his employer, the person he was trying to steal from, follows him. And is quite angry.
”Faith’s Curse” by Randall Bills: Adrian Kohl is a magus, a sorcerer, who gets his powers from belief. Therefore he has to act in a way that causes shock and awe in other people and always to reinforce his image. He even has a bumbling assistant he doesn’t like nor respect. So, when he finds a man killed by magical but mysterious means, he’s not happy.
”The Wish of a Wish” by Robert T. Jeschonek: An IRS agent pays a visit to a man who as genie and he has wished himself very rich. It turns out though, that he’s also a sadist and the agent is actually trying to save the genie. This turned out to be a far darker story than the beginning led me to expect.
”RPG Reunion” by Peter Orullian: A table top roleplayer gets really angry about what happened in a game. So angry in fact, that he makes it his business to learn real magic. And then, the group is called back together. I’m a roleplayer and I don’t like these ”roleplayers are insane” stories.
”Treasure” by Leslie Claire Walker: Addie is a old woman, who did a deal with a Fae some fifty years ago to get out of a desperate life. Now, she’s a pawn shop owner and also accepts magical items, although she doesn’t sell them. Unfortunately, her deal comes back to haunt her. Interestingly, Addie’s not a very likable character but for me she was far more interesting than most of the characters in this collection.
”She’s Not There” by Steve Perry: In this story, the main character, Darla, is a conwoman and a thief. She can use Glamour to change her appearance but only to people whom she has touched. She also, can’t mimic a voice so that limits the ways she can use her power. She robs rich people but usually from stuff which they don’t use much and don’t necessarily miss soon, if ever. She’s just completed a score and gotten the money from her fence, but then she’s robbed and needs to get more money, quickly. I’m a sucker for a likable rogue.
This was a somewhat mixed collection but I enjoyed most of the stories. My favorites were by Bick, Walker, Perry, Jeschonek, and Rusch. Perhaps a bit surprising, most of these were more reflective than action/thriller stories.