Two things I failed to realize:
- this is a short story
- this is a short story set in a well-established series
The latter is totally my fault. My brain skimmed right over the fact that the blurb says the protagonist is the hero of 2 other novels. The first isn't clear. Not my fault. My rating isn’t taking either of these things into account, though. That wouldn’t be fair. Also, the story appears to be a standalone. I could be wrong, but it reads fine on its own.
The premise is awesome. You have a private detective who’s also a mutant shapeshifter with a “badass” vibe. Then you have a prison (that exists in its own pocket universe) full of prisoners that are different types of life forms/aliens. There are a number of gory murders and shit that our cool cat MC, Stake, gets roped into investigating. Recipe for awesomeness, no? Unfortunately, the execution is seriously lacking. There just wasn’t enough time to build up the intrigue, before the MC easily figures everything out.
I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, but I get the impression that Stake is a bit of a Gary Stu. There’s a character that is hard to talk to due to a physical condition. No problem. Stake figures out how to calm him and get him talking coherently the first time they meet. This dude has a large group of friends who aren’t able to properly communicate with him, but Stake does it right off the bat. Ok.
On his second (maybe third?) day in the prison, Stake gets randomly tipped off. This is bizarre, because the “tipper” has been at this prison for some time. The killings had started before Stake arrived, so why hadn’t they divulged info to anyone before? Unless Stake is speshul.
Finally, nearly immediately, Stake knows whodunnit. It’s not like this is some obscure conclusion, either. When he first hypothesized, I thought that it was a logical guess, but way too obvious. And yet, he was right. He asked one witness one question and very soon after figured out whodunnit. How immensely stupid is everyone else at this prison that no one made the connection sooner? He walks in and in no time, he figures it all out. C’mon. Really? Where’s the suspense? There isn’t any.
There’s also little action. There were a couple of scenes that had the potential to be really good, but they flew by in a minute. Other than that, it was basically Stake having the villain info dump him.
This is a super-quick read, but, unfortunately, not a great one. Admittedly, I was enjoying it until I realized that the climax I had been anticipating had already passed. Big disappointment that. I would have been disappointed sooner had I known it was a short story. I thought I was maybe 25% into a book and so, I was intrigued at where the story was going. Instead, the story was solved and nearly over. Wtf.
Despite my dissatisfaction with this one, I may be picking up the first book in the series. The premise and the writing were admittedly good. I just think this would have made a better full-length book, so that the story could be fleshed out a lot more. The MC in this one isn't the MC of all the books in the series, so there's potential there.
This may be more enjoyable for already-established fans of the series and/or hero, but I wouldn’t bet much on it. It read like it was supposed to be a standalone and as such, it just wasn’t up to snuff.