The Unnatural Inquirer (2008) by Simon R. Green is the 8th entry in the Nightside series. This is my first foray into the Nightside. The Nightside is described as a place where monsters exist alongside humans in a pocket of London where the sun never shines. It’s a place where venality is apart of the social order and sin can be had by all. The Nightside has existed for thousands of years and is ruled by no one in particular. Urban legends are not mere myths but simple truths in the Nightside.
The narrator of this series is John Taylor, a private detective who investigates the weird and unusual. He also has the gift of Sight which gives him the uncanny ability to find people or things that don’t want to be found. The city of Nightside is peopled with sorcerers, ghosts and demons and other creatures that fail description. The locales for most of the city are either haunted or deserted. As bad as the Nightside might be, there are even worst parts of the city that most people simply avoid. Nonetheless, the Nightside is a popular tourist destination for sin and depravity for those who know where to look for it.
In this entry, John is offered a case by a tabloid newspaper, The Unnatural Inquirer. He’s hird to go after an “afterlife recording” that someone intercepted on their TV and recorded on DVD. An actual recording of what happens to you when you die. This explosive development has the tabloid ready to buy the exclusive rights but the owner of the DVD has suddenly disappeared. It’s speculated that many Major Players might be interested in the DVD, for instance, those from Above and Below. John is partnered with Bettie Divine, a journalist who is half-demon and daughter of a succubus. Her job is to get the scoop on how John solves his cases. Together they go searching for the afterlife recording and run into some nasty characters along the way.
My thoughts are that visiting The Nightside was a somewhat memorable and entertaining experience. This urban fantasy has interesting monsters and dark magic laced with suspense and plenty of wise cracking humor. I found myself laughing out loud for several scenes. The narrator is a cynic and his one-liners are very funny and serves to lightens things up a bit. There are several interesting locales and establishments in the Nightside that kept me turning the pages quickly. For instance, the Museum of Unnatural History where you can find odd and unusual artifacts from the past, present and future.
Then there’s Nightside’s first amusement park, Fun Faire, where John wraps up his first case when the story opens. Fun Faire is labeled as one of the “bad places” to visit in Nightside because it’s haunted. Years back, the rides were eating the patrons and that’s never good for business. There are plenty of bars and dark alleys where rumors of urban legends run rampant throughout the city. There are also several different dimensions in this world that may explain the origins for most of the populous of Nightside. People or exotic creatures who call Nightside “home” arrive there by accident. That “accident” is called a “timeslip” which is more or less explained as a door that opens from another time period–past, present or future- or another dimension–and then it closes. Often they cannot go back to their own time or some are just unwilling to go back.
Then there are the characters of Nightside starting with John, our narrator who is a PI from the old school who has the “trademark trench coat look” down pat. John is somewhat of a urban legend himself. He is most feared and has a reputation of being cold and ruthless and he does not disappoint. The author doesn’t give very many details of John’s past in this entry especially for those readers who have skipped the first seven er books and a brief recap wouldn’t have hurt. The author does drop in tidbits of John’s previous cases that are very interesting and eye-brow raising.
As for the law in Nightside, there’s Walker, who is most feared and uses the “Voice” that make people do his bidding involuntarily. Also, there’s Betty Divine, John’s temporary partner, who is the daughter of a lust demon who likes to change her clothes to suit her mood and is a pretty decent journalist working for a sleazy tabloid. Last but not least there’s the Collector who collects unique artifacts no matter who it belongs to and he had some really neat stuff and then there’s The Removal man, another feared resident of the Nightside who has a penchant for making people, well, disappear forever.
As good as The Unnatural Inquirer is, I did put it down and could forget about it. There are certain scenes that made me read quickly and others that made my reading slow down to a crawl. There’s some politics on the power struggle over the real estate in Nightside that peaked my interest and there’s also the unusual relationship between John and his bounty hunter girlfriend, Shotgun Suzie that provided a nice distraction. Their past history seems troubled. Suzie is broken inside and John is loyal to her and is trying to help her heal. There’s also an interesting thread on religion in relation to the “afterlife” recording but it adds nothing to the plot and doesn’t go too deep or get too preachy.
The Nightside was an interesting place to hang out at but it’ll have to be a one time visit for now. John will always have interesting cases and continue to run into dangerous people but after reading this book, it didn’t leave me with a burning need to read the first book in the series. It lacks something that I can’t quite put my finger on. It is dark and violent with a few moments of creepiness with scattered moments of levity. Despite a few slow spots, the story is well paced with an ending that was somewhat predictable (I guessed correctly on a few things). Good read, my grade B. I may revisit this series one day, who knows.
[tags]Simon R. Green, The Unnatural Inquirer, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy Reviews[/tags]