Hot Lead, Cold Iron introduces us to a new hero named Mick Oberon, a Harry Dresden, and Marlow-esque Fae private investigator living in 1930 prohibition Chicago (now if that has piqued your interest you’d best keep reading). It has all the Mafia, gangsters and noir you would expect from the era, portrayed nicely alongside magic, Faeries and all the enchanted creatures you’ll ever need.
Mick Oberon is a gumshoe who, after 'Stepping Sideways' back to the human realm sets himself up in Chicago, solving crimes for oddities, items of power and occasionally cash - a guy's gotta pay for the milk and cream somehow.
The book opens fast and hits hard, Mick is on a job that heats up quickly, cue his Luck magic and ability to take a beating and we are given a very nice introduction to the character, his internal monologue and the way he handles himself in a pinch.
However, after this little foray things settles down until much later in the story, the guts of which see Mick being hired to find the child of a high level mobster, who has been switched at birth for a Fae changeling.
There is a nice measure to the story and how it’s outlined and we get a good education to the different elements of both 1930's Chicago and the Fae world in which the Seelie and Unseelie courts reside. This is a situation that Mick is non-too happy with, having left that world and its politics long ago.
This is actually one of my favourite elements as Marmell outlines how the Fae are mimics, the product being a Fae Chicago being built in Elphame, the Land of the Faerie, with their own versions of trains, cars, elevators and cameras (minus the iron, that stuff is a no-no to them). These elements are a great addition, which add depth to the story and the world.
However, one of the elements which I did find a little confusing was while in Elphame Mick continues to speak in the 1930's vernacular, previously explained as required only in the human world in order to fit in and keep his mind right. It wasn’t a big thing, but it did niggle.
Marmell has outdone himself in his attention to detail, his authenticity and use of the vocabulary breaking down the era making for a well planned and executed story. At a nice easy read of approximately six hours, Hot Lead, Cold Iron is what I like to call popcorn read. A book you sit down with and finish in one sitting. It has a good steady pace and once you get by the initial burst and pause it picks up speed and moves along nicely.
Overall, this is a fun read in the ilk of Jim Butchers Dresden for the gumshoe elements, Chris F. Holm's Collector series for the noir feel but with its own shine and personality.
The motto of any good PI: Load your bean-shooters; keep your hocks moving and your peepers open.
Translated version "Load your guns (in this case a wand), keep your feet moving and your eyes open."
Review by Fergus McCartan
Hot Lead, Cold Iron
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