In the world of Urban Fantasy Noir there are a couple of heavy hitter favoritess that have pretty much sealed the form for me – Jim Butcher's “Dresden Files”, Laurel K. Hamilton's “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter”, and Larry Corriea’s popular “Monster Hunter” series. I am a big fan of the sub genre, even though I hung up my High Fantasty staff and pointy cap a long, long time ago.
The books are generally defined by their roots in 40's and 50's crime fiction. Something has happened or is happening and our intrepid heroes need to get to the bottom of it and put a stop to it all.
Harry Dresden does a little leg work and blows a lot of things up with magic fire. He throws some clever quips in as he goes and there is generally a surprise up his sleeve that was never shared with the audience that shows up at the last moment.
Anita Blake follows the Sue Grafton model a bit closer, but with a hero that has unusual magical talents which she uses to help solve all the crimes. There is action, but the stories are much more think-y than the Dresden books.
"The Monster Hunter" series are pure action candy, with big idea plots and a lack of nuance. They start out at a run and end in a full out sprint almost 400 pages later. Our heroes barrel through the bad guys with a real sense of fun, and tons of gun play, and an endless creature book of monsters to fight.
“Night Shall Overtake” by Michael R. Collins (from Black Bed Sheet Books) fits comfortably in that group, while bringing its own distinct personality and style. Not beholden to them, but fitting nicely on the same shelf is a good space for it to be.
Twila is a private detective working for a small agency. She is also a shape shifter, an ability she inherited from her inhuman mom. Her main beat is the edge of the intersection between normal and horror. At the intersection lives all of the nightmares that you can think of, with the top ranks populated by Demons and Lovecraftian monsters filling the space that the Italian and Russian mobs fill in our world. Lower down on the food chain are the lesser powerful, but still dangerous, minor evils like shades and trolls and bar tenders with tentacles.
What a lot of these current urban fantasy noir books are missing is the noir, and Collins delivers that in spades. The book is strong on atmosphere, and even though there is action, he doesn’t default to it as the main engine to move the story forward. Our intrepid detective does actual detective work, she collects clues, makes guesses, sometimes mistakenly, and doggedly moves forward until she can crack the case.
What was especially gratifying is that the Lovecraftian horrors were presented as actually creepy and evil. And alien. Their motives don't necessarily make sense or coincide with what we would expect.The horror quotient in general in these kinds of books are kinda low, and that is made up for with gore and action. "Night Shall Overtake", though, takes its time to build the necessaries to dig into the horror part of this world.
Plus, it is aimed squarely at an adult audience with sub themes that are more nuanced than we generally get in these kinds of stories.
The world Collilns has built, though it still needs a lot of exploration and growing, follows a pretty strong internal logic that allows the story to take its own pace, rather than piling up a bunch of guns in the first scene in order to be able to pull them out of its back pocket at the end.
I guess what I am saying here, is that I was surprised in a very positive way that “Night Shall Overtake” fit in well with the other books in that genre, but it didn’t feel like a cynical grab at readership by copying what was working for other writers. It felt like there was a real story to tell here, and it also set up an interesting world in which more stories with these characters would be very much welcome.
"Night Shall Overtake" is available on Amazon and most other online book shops.