Louis Corsair's Absolution is an unusual novel, a 1940s pulp detective novel, transported to present day LA, and coloured with the trappings of an urban fantasy. It's an awkward mingling of genres that shouldn't work, but which he manages to pull off.
The story starts with a bang - literally - as Raymond Adams is shot dead in an investigation gone wrong. From there we're transported to a kind of limbo, complete with a supernatural attendant, before he's called upon to make a temporary return to the land of the living in order to investigate a supernatural death.
If I had one problem with the novel, it's that the mythology behind the tale (which is pretty heavy) is simply dropped on the reader. As a reader whose knowledge of all things spiritual pretty much begins with Dawkins and ends with Hitchens, I'm not sure how much of the mythology is canonical and how much is imagined, but I definitely felt lost for the first few chapters. Corsair offers enough tidbits for the reader to get by, but I do wonder if perhaps I missed something.
That one quibble aside, this is a story that works very well. There's just enough culture shock for Adams to ring true, without being too comical, and his deadpan gumshoe narration comes across as authentic. The range of characters is just as unsavoury as you'd expect from such a tale, complete with the proverbial stripper with a heart of gold to keep the detective on track. Jenn was definitely an interesting character, one who seemed to go along with all the weirdness a bit to easily, but who does get her WTF moment later on.
This is a genuine whodunit, an old fashioned mystery that keeps you guessing. The twists and turns are genuine ones, honestly presented to the reader as Adams comes in contact with them. There's no feeling that the author is holding back or cheating the reader, and the joy of working the case alongside Adams keeps the story going.
While there are some horrific moments, and some instances of questionable morals, Corsair is generally content to show and not tell. He's economical with his words, never wasting the narration on details that are not integral to the plot . . . or of interest to Adams.
All-in-all, an unusual novel that works better than I expected.Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins