Having experienced first-hand the tribulations of writing the second book in a series, I was a little nervous awaiting the sequel to Peter M Ball’s Horn. I sang Horn‘s praises in my old blog, for the way it smashed together two genres – faeries and hard boiled detective fiction – and made something new out of them. It’s a damned difficult book to describe without making the listener twitch and back off slowly, because unicorns, gritty crime drama, rape and resurrected PIs who are former lovers of the faerie queen are hard to encapsulate while crying out “SERIOUSLY, THIS IS A MOST EXCELLENT BOOK!” But seriously, it is.
So along comes the sequel, Bleed. Clearly, Peter M Ball hasn’t had this “difficult second novel” malarkey to deal with. Bleed is as bold, punchy, gritty and grotesque as Horn. While the subject matter is less shocking than in PI Miriam Aster’s first outing, those elements of hard boiled faerie fiction remain, as unforgiving as the first time.
Former cop Aster doesn’t have many friends, and even the ones she has don’t seem to like her very much. She doesn’t blame them. She has a messed up past, a problematic present and not much of a future. She spends her time, like any good detective of the genre, bitter and drunk. This time the damsel in distress is a former client, Safia, whose twin sister was kidnapped 7 years before. Aster walked away from that one, and the unfinished business has come back to haunt her. The story continues with all kinds of other unfinished business lurking dangerously in the shadows. There’s brutality, vengeance, rage and the sleaziest badass talking cat you’ve ever seen.
In a discussion with a friend about Horn, I found it interesting that I identify Miriam Aster as not only the heroine of this story, but also a “damsel in distress” all on her own account. For someone so self destructive and often unpleasant, I have a definite sympathy with her inability to forgive herself for her past. She’s not as irredeemable as she (or anyone else) thinks she is, and it’s one of the many reasons I am so involved with her story.
Other reasons include Peter M Ball’s excellent grasp of the genre in which he writes, his ability to walk the very fine line between pastiche and drama, and the cast of grubby, hard characters, both human and fey, that inhabit his world. He has delivered another fast-paced read, packed with action, character and pathos. I can’t wait for Claw, the third in the series due out by mid-2011.
Go to Twelfth Planet Press: pick up Bleed, and Horn if you don’t already have it. Then browse around and pick up some more of this small press’s excellent range of challenging, intriguing and innovative titles!