Thursday, December 07, 2006

'Occult Crimes Investigation Unit #1: Sorcery Squad' by Jamie Gregory

TITLE: Occult Crimes Investigation Unit #1: Sorcery Squad
AUTHOR: Jamie Gregory
PRICE: $10.29 (ebook $3)
GENRE: Fantasy
ISBN: 978-1-4116-9825-3

Jamie Gregory is definitely a master of character and setting. His near future Britain artfully blends real occult traditions with inner city police drama. From the opening pages this novel promises to be the perfect blend of mystery and urban fantasy with every character a fully rounded, flawed human being, and every detail rich and authentic. The Occult Crimes Investigation Unit or ‘Sorcery Squad’ is a new policing initiative led by DCI Amanda Oliver—a voudon practitioner holding together a team of detectives with their own occult talents, including the undisciplined DS Abe Rosen who is still struggling with the aftereffects of his rebellious youth.

When two incinerated bodies are found in a magical circle the sorcery squad swings into action. However, because I was expecting a mystery to unfold I found the writing style to be supremely exasperating. A great many scenes would open with just a few sentences before launching into five to ten pages of a detailed retrospective account of some peripheral topic such as why a certain location was ideal for summoning a demon or how two characters first met. These vignettes whilst interesting after a fashion were digressions that never proved relevant to the main plotline. Added to that, the mystery is finally solved through coincidence and outside manipulation—the detectives themselves proving almost credulous in their beliefs and just happening to stumble over vital clues and confessions.

A subplot involving demons making an offer that exploits Abe’s deepest weakness enlivens the closing stages of the story but neither the crime itself nor the personal subplots are well resolved. I was left with the impression that Jamie Gregory has the potential to be an astounding breakthrough author of gritty urban fantasy truly in a league of his own—but only if he manages to place as much emphasis on plot as he does on lovingly portraying the motivations of his complex and engaging characters.

If you are a devotee of unique fantasy with a gritty, urban edge and a multi-cultural ensemble cast I do encourage you to give this book a try. If you have a sneaking addiction to Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle this may not be the book for you.

RATING: 6.5/10

8.3/10: Lulu


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