Inhuman Resources, by Jes Battis (Ace, 2010)

Vancouver’s Occult Special Investigations unit always, by virtue of its very nature, gets the weird cases. This time, a prominent academic and necromancer has been murdered, while inexplicably wearing an antique suit of armor in the safety of his own home. Now Tess Corday and her team have to figure out who killed Luiz Ordeno and why. To do that, Tess will have to wrestle answers out of the notoriously tightlipped necromantic community, brave the local vampire dens, track down enigmatic demon information brokers, and risk her own life against those who don’t want her to succeed. Along the way, she’ll also have to reevaluate her clandestine relationship with her necromancer lover, keep not one but two supernaturally-imbued teenagers out of trouble, and make time for a long-overdue heart-to-heart with her mother. Just another week at the office.

Where do I start? I love this series with a passion, and Inhuman Resources is definitely my favorite thus far. On the surface, it’s the urban fantasy answer to CSI, with a full team of quirky, talented specialists working behind the scenes and in the office to help Tess and her partners in the field get the results. The camaraderie, snappy patter and easy back-and-forth dialogue helps maintain a steady flow as the information and technobabble comes and goes, and it’s obvious Battis has a real ear for this sort of thing.

I love that when characters talk to one another, it’s open, direct, and productive. There are too many series out there where a misunderstanding or moment of miscommunication could fuel entire books of angst and hurt feelings. Here, for instance, Tess and her boyfriend Lucien actually find time to have an adult discussion that means something, full of honest emotion and forward movement. Sure, they might argue, but they get over it in a manner which rings true and feels real. There’s a subtle maturity to the emotional component of this book that helps it stand out, whether it’s Tess and Lucien, or Tess’ partner/housemate Derrick and his boyfriend Miles, or part-demon teenager Mia (just hitting those moody teen years!) or any of the other fascinating characters who contribute to the plot. It’s an intangible quality; some books have it, some don’t, and this one has lots of it.

I love the juxtaposition of modern science (verging on the futuristic sometimes) and weird magic. Sure, it’s a staple of urban fantasy to blend the real and unreal, but Battis has injected his world with enough cutting-edge technology and forensic techniques as to give this series a slight science fiction edge as well. But then he turns around and introduces us to Trinovantum, the bizarre hidden city of the necromancers, which could exist in a fantasy setting completely separate of the so-called real world. And instead of clashing, these disparate elements work well together.

The main crux of the plot may be your standard murder whodunit, but its packaging is anything but standard; this is top-notch urban fantasy in every regard, and I’m looking forward to the further adventures of Tess Corday and her friends and family.

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