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'Hot Lead, Cold Iron' is a 1930s urban fantasy with gangsters, witches and elves

Mick Obernon is trying to rescue a mobster's daughter
Titan Books

Hot lead, Cold Iron by Ari Marmell


The gumshoe in urban fantasy. Its a magical partnership when done well. Ari Marmell is trying to tap into the Dresden files fan base with his new elf gumshoe mystery, "Hot Lead, Cold Iron" he almost gets it totally right. 'Hot Lead, Cold Iron' is a good introductory read to this new series, with a great setting, mafia and gangsters and some great villains, but there were a couple of things that just annoyed me.

Mick Oberon is the gumshoe in question. The setting is 1930s Chicago, a world full of gangsters, witches and the occasional case that requires otherworldly assistance. Obernon, an elf prince, has left Elphame and the rest of the aes sidhe and relocated to the human world. He works as a private detective using his wand to manipulate luck and taking on jobs that interest him and earning -- knickknacks. Apparently, Oberon has a magical sense that the objects can be useful. But in this entire novel, not one of those so called useful knickknacks are useful. So what gives!

Instead, Obernon needs cash money to help a friend so takes a case for the Outfit for the money to find out what happened to the daughter of a head member of the Outfit, who was replaced by a changeling. Elves replace human children with changelings and typically enslave the humans in Elphame. But its been sixteen years and there are no clues in Chicago.

Obernon must travel back to Elphame and the Chicago Otherworld and finds himself trading favors with the evil Queen Mob (Again, you just know this is a plot devise because even we neophyte human readers know you do not promise a future favor to an evil elf). It turns out that the girl in question is back in Chicago.

Obernon will have to track down the gangster's daughter with the help of the gangsters in question. The person who switched the changeling and human child will be a surprise and the reason for it -- a feud with gangsters from the old country, is a little much. There will be a big take down scene involving magic and mobsters.

What's to like in this new urban fantasy detective story - the setting is top notch. Marmell's 1930s milieu is pitch perfect. The gunfights, mobsters, coppers and other citizens of Chicago and Elphame are on target. Obernon and his trusty Luchtaine & Goodfello Model 1592 wand are a good combination. There is sly humor, good dialogue and a good plot, but I just did not like the lead in to the story, I did not like the bargain with Queen Mob and I am not sure the whole "luck" manipulation works. Maybe that is my liking for the simplicity of the the magic in the Dresden books.

However, I will be first on line to get the next book because there are just too many other good things in this magical detective mashup to skip.

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