Hello Humans! Who is ready for a snarky private detective fantasy novel? If the answer is not you then buckle up and get ready for The Last Smile in Sunder City. I genuinely had no idea what to expect going into this book and I was a little sceptical at first – so let me tell you how it went.
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
1. Sobriety costs extra.
2. My services are confidential – the cops can never make me talk.
3. I don’t work for humans.
It’s nothing personal – I’m human myself. But after what happened, Humans don’t need my help. Not like every other creature who had the magic ripped out of them when the Coda came…
I just want one real case. One chance to do something good.
Because it’s my fault the magic is never coming back.
This book tackles that very well-known (at this point) typical ‘private eye’ character, we all know it, we could all probably imitate a scene from one noir or another where the drunk PI wakes up behind the glass door with their name on it. I’ll confess to having become a little jaded with this kind of character, I think the last time I went ‘oh yay it’s this trope’ and wasn’t being sarcastic was when I started watching Jessica Jones. My issue with the trope is usually because substance abuse is a tricky subject to deal with, and more often than not it’s brushed away as a ‘well he’s a PI so of course he’s drunk all the time now on with the murders’.
Am I making sense? Probably not.
Anyway, this book takes that kind of a character and plonks him into a fantasy setting, a world where the magical creatures don’t have magic any more, leading the world into a depression-esque disarray. Our main character Fetch is called upon to help find a missing professor and from there the mystery spirals outwards – as mysteries are wont to do.
I’ll touch on Fetch as a character, since I went off on one about the drunk PI trope at the beginning. While there were times where it did feel like it was for the sake of the trope, for the most part I felt like Fetch’s substance abuse was made a proper part of the character, it has a clear progression and, when getting some of his backstory, as a reader you get an understanding of the trauma that led to where Fetch is now. I’m not going to recommend this book as a great example of showing character’s dealing with trauma – I didn’t expect that going in – I just thought it worth noting, maybe I’m just quietly wishing for a book that will handle this well.
Let’s assume that won’t bother you, should you read this book? I think you should. This is a really well written fantasy murder mystery that takes some of those detective tropes we know and love and throws in a bit of folklore and fable to satisfy the fantasy reader. As someone raised on Poirot who now takes her fiction with a side of dragon I could not have been more pleased. One of the things I really liked about this book was the variety of mythical/fantasy creatures that were represented. Luke Arnold doesn’t just throw in the usual culprits (Vampires and Werewolves) but also represents quite a wide range of fantasy creatures. I’m not sure if there are plans to do more books in this series but I would say that Arnold has left the door open to do so, the sense is that there are varied stories to be told involving a whole lot of creatures, and I think the angle of having creatures left without magic is so clever and makes for a fresh take on ‘fantasy creatures in the same world as humans’.
I would say that if you read a lot of mystery novels this might not hit home in quite the same way as it would if you were new to that genre of fiction. I thought that the plot was interesting, but also that things didn’t come as a surprise – that didn’t make the book any less enjoyable I just know some people really enjoy twists and turns while others like a more predictable story.
I feel as though I’m putting a lot of negatives into this review – I did enjoy this book!
I think the dynamic between the various characters is a lot of fun, the banter (essential in a grumpy PI novel) is well-done, I thought that the overall plot was interesting – and the book is fast paced and tightly edited.
I definitely think this is worth a read if the concept has gripped you – I’ll be excited to read more from Luke Arnold in the future!
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
The Last Smile in Sunder City Publishes February 4th!
What say you? Is this on your ‘anticipated reads’ list? -Let me know in the comments below!