Killing Pretty by Richard Kadrey
|Book Name:||Killing Pretty|
|Publisher(s):||Harper Voyager (US)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Urban Fantasy / Horror|
|Release Date:||July 28, 2015 (US) July 30, 2015 (UK)|
Seven books in, Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series continues to have its hooks in me. Killing Pretty—the latest entry—was released at the end of July and I plowed through it in a mere two days. The further adventures of James Stark and his merry band of supernatural misfits have become annual appointment reading, on par with the latest installment of the Dresden Files. Kadrey has found a formula that fans love and, if Killing Pretty is any indication, Kadrey still has miles to go with these characters.
In Killing Pretty, Stark (a/k/a “Sandman Slim”), has just scored the most important victory of his life. But at what cost? The woman he loves is…gone? The Room of Thirteen Doors, the supernatural nexus that allowed Stark to “shadow walk” wherever he saw fit, can’t be opened lest transdimensional elder gods be loosed upon existence (again). And someone has vandalized his video store. What is a half-angel/half-human to do?
Get a real job? Earn some scratch? Go…respectable? Well, let’s not get too crazy.
Killing Pretty picks up almost immediately after the apocalyptic events of The Getaway God and finds Stark et al. hitting the reset button. And with the new status quo, and Kadrey has thrust Stark into the role of private dick, investigating supernatural crimes under the watchful eye of a former member of the US Government’s Golden Vigil. Still full of the dark humor, Catholic overtones and noir flourishes that have been the series’ hallmarks, Kadrey has ostensibly shifted the focus from broad themes of religion, revenge and redemption to a murder mystery. The first case? Find out who killed the Angel of Death.
The whodunit of Death’s (quickly christened “Vincent” by Stark) murder is the central plot device of Killing Pretty and it works well as a delivery mechanism for the new status quo. The murder itself, and the ultimate conclusion to the investigation, got a bit convoluted at times but when the central conceit of your novel is that Death is dead, some minor fudging can be forgiven.
The real meat of Killing Pretty, however, is in watching Stark adjust to his new life. He’s by no means a regular human, but his ability to play the part of avenging nephilim, popping from the shadows to kill angel, demon, God or man as he sees fit has been severely hampered both by choice and necessity. The Stark of Killing Pretty is a Stark more or less confined to Earth, with Heaven and Hell closed to him for the time being. If you’ve followed the series from the start, it is an interesting development and humanizes Stark in a way that doesn’t feel forced. If you’re a new reader, Killing Pretty is a great jumping-on point as the events of the previous six novels have a presence, but not a direct bearing on the murder mystery at hand.
Kadrey mines the same veins as he has in prior books. The seedy underbelly of Los Angeles is still as much a character as Stark, Vidocq or Sammael. Stark’s L.A. is one that is both ridiculous in its artifice and tragic its delusion. References to Mulholland Drive, Laurel Canyon and various other L.A. locales don’t feel the least bit contrived. Kadrey’s love of the city’s dark history—be it with mobsters, the occult or even the Nazis—adds some much-needed grime to the lens through which the reader (and the characters) view the City of Angels. There’s a subtle sadness to Kadrey’s L.A., a sadness rooted in L.A.’s very real position as place where as many dreams die as wishes come true. It is a uniquely dark corner of the American Dream and Kadrey delights in turning on the spotlight to see what scuttles out.
Fans of Hellblazer, Angel or the Dresden Files should really give the Sandman Slim series a try. Kadrey has crafted a supernatural-noir universe that combines religion, monsters, magic and very human characters in a way that is both unique and entertaining. Killing Pretty is yet another example of Kadrey’s ability to reliably deliver an unabashedly pulpy supernatural noir thriller that is perfect summer read.