“Mean Streets” is a compilation gathering some of the most top-notch investigators and hunters of the paranormal. The book is a themed anthology, where national and New York Times bestselling authors get a chance to feature their heroes and heroines against all sorts of things that go bump in the night.
First up is Butcher’s infamous private investigator, Harry Dresden. In “The Warrior”, readers find Dresden reuniting with his retired partner-turned softball coach, Michael Carpenter. Someone has sent Dresden pictures of his former partner, along with the other members of the Carpenter family, and Dresden is convinced that they’re in danger. Despite his wishes, Michael is convinced that Faith will protect him and his family, and that they are safe from all things supernatural.
Dresden believes that the mysterious photographer is after the magic sword once wielded by his partner. His car is broken in to. He’s attacked in the dark. If not for one hell of a supporting cast, Harry may not even make it to the story’s second act. However, Harry is the right combination of lucky and good, and his network gives Butcher plenty to work with.
“The Warrior” is an excellent peek into the world of Harry Dresden, and those who have read the Dresden Files will enjoy the numerous references to those stories. Those who enjoy the adventures of the titular wizard/investigator can check out the Dresden Files, beginning with “Storm Front.”
“The Difference a Day Makes” is set in the Nightside; a place where evil dreams and temptations live and breathe forever. The Nightside is home to Green’s private investigator, John Taylor. The story finds Taylor and his counterpart, the aptly named Dead Boy, drinking in a bar. In walks a good-looking brunette seeking help and the adventure is off and running. She introduces herself as Liza Barclay. She’s missing the last 24 hours of her memory, and her husband, Frank. Queue the ominous string section. In typical noir fashion, she spills her guts about a situation only a great investigator could solve, and Taylor takes the case.
The Nightside is bad enough; a netherworld in and around London where bad dreams are the citizens and the seven deadly sins are a way of life. When Taylor uses his special sight to locate Husband Frank, the target is in a place called the badlands. It’s the wrong side of the tracks in a world that’s the wrong side of the moral compass. People go to the badlands to satisfy the most deviant visions of lust. Naturally, it’s where Taylor and crew must go to find the missing Frank and close the case.
Green is free from the restraints of placing the paranormal inside the modern world. The Nightside provides him ample opportunity to deliver fantastic heroes, villains and obstacles from the colonial past and futures which exist only in imagination. Taylor and Dead Boy share a banter that will have readers laughing out loud. The comedy is a fine one-two punch with some of the warped bio-imagery that Green creates to challenge his telepathic hero and his undead sidekick.
Green has written a number of series. Taylor is the protagonist in the Nightside series, beginning with “Something from the Nightside” in 2003. His writing often reference British pop culture. Enjoying “The Difference a Day Makes” is not dependent on familiarity with those references, or previous novels in the series.
The third story, “The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog” features gifted investigator Harper Blaine. The protagonist who made her debut in 2006’s “Greywalker” works out of Seattle, using a rare form of vision she gained during her two minutes between life and death. A colleague tracks her down, stating that Harper has been asked to deliver a clay statue of a dog to the grave of a man named Hector Purecete in Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s a strange job, but it pays well, and Harper can handle it.
She doesn’t even get through the airport before the statue is broken, and she is joined by a new companion; the ghost of a dog almost always under her feet. Fortunately for Harper, only she can see the dog. When she reaches Oaxaca, time is of the essence. There are only two days before El Dia de Los Muertos, the deadline for placing the statue. She is joined by a tall, sulking, unwilling assistant named Mickey. The pair travel in to town for answers, tugging on one another’s nerves every step of the way.
Soon, Harper becomes convinced magic is at work in the mysterious case of the ghost dog. When Mickey reveals he, too, can see the mystical pooch, things really get complicated. Harper’s work leads to dusty graves, mysterious Mexican boogeymen, skeleton children and some really bad things that go bump in the night.
The closing story is “Noah’s Orphans”, written by Thomas E. Sniegoski and featuring his character, Remy Chandler. Chandler and his dog, Marlowe, are mourning the passing of Madeline, Chandler’s human wife and his anchor to humanity. Remy is actually Remiel, an angel soldier of God who lives on earth and desperately wants to be human. Now, the woman who anchors his soul to human empathy has passed away, and he feels lost without her.
Enter Sariel, leader of an angel messenger tribe known as the Grigori. Sariel informs Remy that there has been a murder, and the victim is none other than Noah. Remy and Sariel travel to the abandoned oil rig in the middle of the China Sea and discover that Noah was indeed murdered, and that they are not alone. Remy begins his investigation and soon learns that Noah was wrecked with guilt, not over the creatures he was able to save, but those left behind when the ark set sail during the great flood.
Sniegoski writes with great detail, using everyday actions to place his supernatural being squarely in the settings of Boston and Maine. “Noah’s Orphans” is a brilliant concept and could easily have been fleshed out into a full novel. Chandler is the star of his own series, beginning with 2008’s “A Kiss Before the Apocalyplse.”
“Mean Streets” is like a mixer, or a happy hour. Each author is given a brief opportunity to introduce themselves and their characters to the readers. The intent is easy and effective. Readers get a brief and fascinating peek into the worlds of Taylor, Dresden, Blaine and Chandler, and will be left craving more time with each.