Dead Man in a Ditch by Luck Arnold
A year ago a book was on sale. It was dirt cheap and as I was on a budget, I grabbed a copy of it. It was an urban fantasy called The Last Smile in Sunder City. And when I began reading it my expectations were quite low. Beyond Laurel Hamilton, Devon Monk and Jim Butcher the genre seems to feel like cheap copy cats of the more popular authors offering nothing new. Also the fact that this book was written by an established Hollywood actor really lowered my expectations as well. But this book ended up catching me off guard and blowing me away. It was so unique and amazing that when the second book came out, I had to give it a read. Here is my review of the second book in the Fetch Philips series called Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold.
So what is it about? Well if you never read the first book the setting is quite unique. This is a pseudo modern world where human and magical creatures of all kinds live together. The world was one where magic made the world function and every creature had a purpose, except for humans who were often considered useless and were reserved for the low grade jobs. In the first book, Fetch was one of these humans. One of the only ones in Sunder City. He was optimistic and upbeat until he realized how useless he was and only got where he was because an elf high in power put him that place to fill a diversity quota. It was not because he would serve any purpose. Tired of this, Fetch made some very bad mistakes and in the end accidently helped to wipe magic off of the face of the Earth.
The book picks up six years later. Fetch has dedicated himself as a man for hire in Sunder City. For those ex magical folks who are still alive, he wants to do everything in his power to help. He is being ate away by regret, guilt and depression as he often takes drugs and drinks to get through the day. But there are rumblings that magic is coming back and he is called to help the police on a murder that seems quite magical. When the investigation begins, he finds the victim with a strange hole in his head and has the description of a human who appears off with a cane. From there on out, Fetch tracks down clues, possible suspects, discovers methods to do magic, learns about new human machinery and of course his messed up past comes to haunt him in a very big way.
So the good? The story is pretty good overall. The mystery takes center stage in the book, where the last novel was the tragic life of Fetch with a murder on the side. And the mystery, though it does seem to meander at a few points, it does come together perfectly. All the little elements that seem pointless, do come into play as meaningful in the climax. Also this book has a lot of twists and turns. It really keeps the reader guessing and it does it so well with all the murky layered bad guys. It ultimately comes to having to defeat the lesser of two evils, but it’s so hard to tell who the more evil bad guy is at many times. Also Fetch is a great hero. A man who did something terrible looking for redemption is such a fantastic arch. And Fetch is as tragic as they come, barely hanging onto his sanity, which is even harder because since magic disappeared he is despised and hated for being human. He can’t win. This makes a lot of moments more powerful. There is one scene where he meets an old friend at one point and for a single night Fetch is happy, which is just great for the reader to see. There is a scene where some folks look to him as a friend and he is genuinely shocked. These little moments carried so much weight because it’s hard to not feel bad for Fetch. Also there is a scene with psychotic blood crazy unicorn. It’s pretty amazing. There is also an exploration of Fetch’s introduction to human technology. It is intriguing to see Fetch become aware of things such as guns and automobiles. And to see humans rebuilding this magicless world is a like seeing the impossible happen from Fetch's view.. There’s this scene where Fetch holds a gun for the first time. And in a world where he’s always been beaten and bruised by magical creatures his whole life, he felt this sense of power and safety for the first time; like he finally is on par with everyone else.
The bad? The book is slow and has the appearance of pointlessly meandering at times. As mentioned before it does all tied together beautifully but at the time of reading it, I found asking, “Does this all have a point?” Also there’s a part of the story where Fetch travels on foot arrest someone and nearly kills himself because the journey is long. But it’s a couple chapters later it is revealed that Fetch owns a horse. So it was quite confusing as to why he didn’t use his horse in the first place Also Fetch is not the sharpest tool in the shed. There is a point where Fetch is trusting a character who is waving all the crazy red flags and it takes a little too long for Fetch to catch on. At least it seemed like that to me.
Overall, this is a great second entry. Fetch’s tragic investigations continue for another mystery. But it’s not quite the downer as the first book. There is a hope for magic’s return. Sunder City is rebuilding itself up and moving on, and Fetch finally is ready to as well. The world building is great. Fetch and the rest of the cast is fantastic. And this one of heck of a twisty turny mystery to get lost in.
5 smoothies out of Five
Overall Rating: The Return to Sunder City was Well worth the Wait