Review for Sleight of Hand by Mark Henwick
I picked up Sleight of Hand unsure how good it was going to be. It’s been really hit and miss lately with UF novels, leaving me skeptical of any new ones that have come along. Reading this one was kind of like trying a new desert of which you had no idea of the ingredients. You take that first bite and think “Okay, this isn’t bad”. Another tentative bite and you’re beginning to believe the baker might be on to something. More bites and suddenly the desert is gone and you’re wildly looking around for more. Damn, the baker (or in this case author) only gave you one piece. How in the heck are you supposed to live with that? It might have filled you up and left you satisfied, but we all know one is never enough, especially if you’re a glutton for good reads. That’s how my experience went with the novel, anyway.
In the beginning, you are introduced to Amber Farrell. She’s an Army veteran, former cop, and now struggling PI. Yep, this girl’s gotten around. Makes for an interesting combination of skills to bring to the table for her customers, if only more would come along and hire her. After her latest job doesn’t go so well, she’s in trouble and needs some income coming in fast. Lucky for her, Jennifer Kingslund, a highly successful businesswoman, arrives with a lucrative case that’s just what Amber needs, even if it does sound a bit dangerous–not that that would stop her. It doesn’t take long before Amber is neck-deep in Denver politics and crime, managing to piss off a few powerful people that aren’t above getting rid of one annoying little private investigator. Let’s not forget she’s drawn the attention of the local vampires and weres too (just for good measure). It’s going to take all those aforementioned skills, plus a few nifty supernatural abilities she’s picked up along the way, to get this case solved and come out at the end alive.
If you’re into fantasy detective novels, this may be the one for you. There are many out there, but this one manages to be unique and stand on its own with a set of lore that I found fascinating. The vampires are called Athanate. They have an interesting transition process for humans who wish to become like them and their groups (one good and one not so good) are well-organized and secretive. A little less time is spent on the weres, but a few basics of their lore are covered (which are mostly standard). There is one werewolf in particular who turns out to be rather hot and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him. Speaking of which, the romance in this novel is fairly light but some strong possibilities are set-up which will pique the interest of those who enjoy that sort of thing. Just keep in mind it may not go the traditional route of one man/one woman exclusive (the hints for something more complicated are strong). Most people with an open mind shouldn’t have any problem with this, though.
I loved the military background of the heroine for this series as well, being an Army veteran myself. Admittedly some of the culture and organization for the military has been altered to suit the needs of the novel. Those who served will probably notice this, but it’s nothing too over-the-top or difficult to swallow. Amber is still tied to her Army past in a way I won’t spoil, but suffice it to say you’ll get some fascinating backstory interspersed throughout that helps explain a lot about the heroine.
There are many more great things I could say about Mark Henwick’s debut novel. The plot is strong and well-developed. The world-building is just right so readers aren’t slammed with too much at once, but still have enough to draw a fairly good picture. Plenty of fun and fascinating side characters to keep things interesting as well. Though this new book stands on its own, the style would appeal to fans of Anita Blake (the early novels), Mercy Thompson, and the Kate Daniels series. For those like me who are hoping a new novel will be forthcoming soon, I confirmed the next one should be released before the holidays. New fans shouldn’t have to wait long before getting their next bite.