The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“We’re Supernatural Protection & Investigations, known as SPI. Things that go bump in the night, the monsters you thought didn’t exist? We battle them and keep you safe. But some supernatural baddies are just too big to contain, even for us.
When I moved to New York to become a world famous journalist, I never imagined that snagging a job at a seedy tabloid would change my career path from trashy reporter to undercover agent. I’m Makenna Fraser, a Seer for SPI. I can see through any disguise, shield, or spell that a paranormal pest can come up with. I track down creatures and my partner, Ian Byrne, takes them out.
Our cases are generally pretty routine, but a sickle-wielding serial killer has been prowling the city’s subway tunnels. And the murderer’s not human. The fiend in question, a descendant of Grendel—yes, that Grendel—shares his ancestor’s hatred of parties, revelry, and drunkards. And with New Year’s Eve in Times Square only two days away, we need to bag him quickly. Because if we don’t find him—and the organization behind him—by midnight, our secret’s out and everyone’s time is up.”
I’ve never read anything by Lisa Shearin before, although I’ve heard good reviews of her previous series. She has an interesting writing style: a little light on characterization, but heavy on action and humor. It makes for a pretty enjoyable combination. The plot of this particular book, however, seems a little convoluted. I didn’t see any pressing need to have events happen at exactly midnight on New Year’s Eve beyond just a sense of drama. Giving the good guys a heads-up as to your location at a specific time sounds like a good way to lose.
In many ways, this book felt like number two or even three in a series, not the opening volume. I’m trying not to get into spoiler territory here, so suffice it to say that things happen that would have benefitted from some foreshadowing in earlier books. It’s like some worldbuilding got lost somewhere along the way and it left me feeling… not lost, per se, but a bit like I’d inadvertently skipped some important scenes early on.
There was a small writing quirk that ended up seriously annoying me. SPI’s boss is a dragon who mostly spends time in human form named Vivienne Sagadraco. You will become very familiar with that name, because not only is it used a lot, it is almost always the full name being used instead of just the first name. It’s not like there’s another Vivienne in the novel, so using the full name constantly became cumbersome and stood out like a sore thumb.
Quibbles aside, I did find a lot in this novel to enjoy. I was especially pleased to see that the monsters running through New York were grendels—not a creature you see in much of anything outside of Beowulf. A few other uncommon beasties show up at different points, and I do hope that future novels take advantage of the size and diversity of New York to continue introducing unusual mythical critters. The fights make good use of such terrain as the subway system and the crowded city streets, and the author is definitely good at describing such mayhem.
Despite some rough edges, I found The Grendel Affair to be a decent novel, with plenty of action and rampaging monsters to pump some adrenaline into the story. I’ll be interested to see where Shearin goes with this concept in future novels, and I do plan on checking out what comes next.