Unfallen Dead, by Mark Del Franco (Ace, 2009)

Ever since he lost the bulk of his magical abilities in an attempt to stop a magical terrorist, Connor Grey has eked out a living as a PI. As a druid and former investigator for the Fey Guild, he’s uniquely suited to assist the Boston police when things get too weird for their tastes, but not weird enough to concern the Guild itself. And despite having a black mass in his head where his ability to manipulate magical essence used to be, Connor’s gotten into some unusual scrapes, including preventing a recent near-apocalypse. In fact, thanks to that event, he now has a Queen of Faerie, the indomitable Ceridwen, asking awkward questions and poking into his affairs. He’s got a magical artifact — an ancient spear — that wants to go home with him; his former partner and best friend has just been assigned as the new field director for the Boston branch of the Guild, and a corpse has just turned up with druidic runes carved into its forehead. Something’s going on, and Boston may just be Ground Zero for more magical mayhem. As Samhain approaches and the barriers between life and death thin, Connor will find himself reliving some of the most painful moments of his past, even as worlds collide and deadly plans are set in motion. To save the day, he’ll have to push himself like never before, challenge death itself, and trust someone he hasn’t worked with in years. But there’ll be a cost. There’s always a cost for these sorts of things.

It’s odd, but while I enjoy this series in general, and find the concept to be an exciting one ripe with potential, and love it whenever the author expands the worldview and history, I consider the odd yes-they-are-no-they-aren’t relationship between Connor and his friend Meryl to be the best part of each new book. There’s this fun sense of playful unpredictability and simmering chemistry that makes them a great team. It’s not so much romantic as it is an exchange of personalities. Add into that the uneasy camaraderie between Connor and his old partner Dylan, and the comfortable friendship Connor shares with the all-too-mortal Detective Murdock of the Boston PD, and you have a series whose strength lies in character relationships, as well as in strong plots and subtle, unfamiliar scenery. Mind you, Unfallen Dead is a strong read on its own, one with a gripping plot and some serious stakes at hand. The blend of mythology, mystery, and action helps to make this urban fantasy stand out in its own way. I’d definitely recommend this one to the Harry Dresden or Felix Castor fans.

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