I've read this novel at least twice (13 and 11 years ago), and apparently have forgotten almost all of it. In fact, what I did remember as the climactic scene must belong to the second novel in the series, Burn Me Deadly. I can do better with the rest of the series (and not just because I actually wrote something about them—but I'm looking forward to taking another look at them in the coming months.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, I should introduce you to Eddie LaCrosse and his world. It's your basic Fantasy world—swords, rumors of sorcery, small kingdoms, and so on. Eddie's an ex-soldier, ex-mercenary, now "sword jockey" (basically a private cop). He's got a little more on his résumé, but you'll learn more about that as you dive in yourself. He's been hired by an old friend, the King of a neighboring country to clear his wife of the horrific murder of her son. She doesn't remember him, but when he meets her, Eddie realizes that he knew the Queen long before the King did.
Eddie's investigation takes him through multiple kingdoms, into the remains of a cult, and into a criminal network that rivals anything that Varys put together for efficacy or ruthlessness. At the same time he does this, Eddie takes a trip through his personal history, reliving the time he knew the Queen (and events leading up to that). The two storylines are interwoven to help Eddie solve what seems like a perfect crime.
Both in the narration, LaCrosse's character and the kinds of people we meet along the way, Bledsoe channels Chandler. LaCrosse is casually violent in a way that Marlowe indulged in a bit too often for me, and the (for lack of a better word) grotesque (in physical appearance and morality) criminals Eddie deals with in the latter parts of the book felt particularly Chandler-esque to me.
There's some things that happen at the end that point to Eddie coming to terms with parts of his past that he's been unable/unwilling to acknowledge existed. The character won't change as a result of this (at least not much), but I think it opens the door for some of his rougher edges to be rounded out. How well that actually happens, I'll have to see (I don't trust my memory enough right now)—but at the very least, Bledsoe made it possible for the character to grow and evolve here.
Rudnicki's narration didn't really work for me initially—there was a quality to his voice that just didn't click with me. But, I kept going because I liked the novel. Before the halfway mark, however, he'd won me over. I can't put my finger on it (either good or bad), but he sold the emotional moments, the humor, and Eddie's general attitude. Which is good enough for me.
It's hard for me to rate this one on its own terms—I remember liking it. I remember what Bledsoe does with the characters. And those things color my rating, leading me to probably giving this another half-to-whole star more than I would otherwise. But also, for the world. The merging of Fantasy and Hard-boiled genres in a way that's seamless and well-executed. I recommend this one and will be back for more soon.
Bookstooge posted about this book yesterday. It's probably worth a read (I'll read it later today, I didn't want his voice in my head as I wrote this).