Poison Fruit by Jacqueline Carey
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“The Pemkowet Visitors Bureau has always promoted paranormal tourism—even if it has downplayed the risks (hobgoblins are unpredictable). It helps that the town is presided over by Daisy Johanssen, who as Hel’s liaison is authorized by the Norse goddess of the dead to keep Pemkowet under control. Normally, that’s easier to do in the winter, when bracing temperatures keep folks indoors.
But a new predator is on the prowl, and this one thrives on nightmares. Daisy is on her trail and working intimately with her partner and sometime lover from the Pemkowet PD, sexy yet unavailable werewolf Cody Fairfax. But even as the creature is racking up innocent victims, a greater danger looms on Pewkowet’s horizon.
As a result of a recent ghost uprising, an unknown adversary—represented by a hell-spawn lawyer with fiery powers of persuasion—has instigated a lawsuit against the town. If Pemkowet loses, Hel’s sovereignty will be jeopardized, and the fate of the eldritch community will be at stake. The only one who can prevent it is Daisy—but she’s going to have to confront her own worst nightmare to do it.”
I’ve always liked Carey’s fantasy novels. If you haven’t read her Kushiel trilogy and like a good dose of dark fantasy, I strongly urge you to go and pick it up. These novels are lighter fare, with more humor and hijinks than her previous work. I think Carey works well with the urban fantasy genre, and her idea to create a town that bases its tourism on magical creatures was a great one. I also like that she makes no bones about the fact that those beings can be dangerous, and in fact the consequences of that danger (shown in the previous book) come to roost in this story.
I enjoy the background characters as much as I enjoy Daisy. The setting, and the established background of supernatural races migrating to America en masse, allows the author to vary the kinds of creatures that show up in Pemkowet. Thus you get an area ruled by Hel, a Norse goddess, but you also get brownies, Caribbean magic, Greek monsters, and your common werewolves, to name just a few. They all mingle through the narrative quite nicely. You wouldn’t think such critters could play well together story-wise, but Carey makes them all fit into a weird sort of supernatural melting pot.
However, I found that the relationship in this book made me want to swat the main characters. I do give kudos to Carey for swapping around the “traditional” gender roles and having Cody, the male of the pair, be the one to waver on the “should we or shouldn’t we” front. He’s supposed to mate with a werewolf and have little puppies, after all. But this has meant two books of “I care about you, but we can’t be together, but let’s just have sex this once, but we can’t have anything more, but I care about you…” It’s just as annoying when a guy does it as when a girl does.
As far as the plot goes, the “predator who thrives on nightmares” plot didn’t mesh quite right with the rest of the book. Yes, it was interesting to see Daisy having to let down her guard in order to confront the creature, but much of the rest of the novel hinged on the threat to Hel’s domain. I almost wonder if the smaller nightmare plot wouldn’t have been better as a novella. This book is actually pretty hefty, and paring it down to just the resolution of the threat to Hel would have tightened it up. Even so, I enjoyed both storylines–I’m just not sure that they belonged in the same book.
I’m sad that this is the final book about Daisy and Pemkowet. This novel had plenty of humor, romance and action, and it all made for a thrilling read.