Series: ISHMAEL JONES MYSTERIES
Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—2; Humor—3
Publisher and Titles: Severn House Publishers Ltd.
The Dark Side of the Road (5/2015—hardcover and e-book; 11/2015—paperback)
Dead Man Walking (9/2016—hardcover and e-book)
(At least three more books to come: one already
NOVEL 2: Dead Man Walking
Porter is being imprisoned in a steel-barred basement cell at Ringstone Lodge, a long-time Organization internment center located in the middle of nowhere. The regular Ringstone staff has been evacuated, leaving just a short list of characters, each with his or her own special role in the plot:
> Donald MacKay, a retired Regimental Sergeant Major who has been head of security at Ringstone for three years.
Accompanying Ishmael is his new partner (and lover), Penny Belcourt, whose family was destroyed during the events of The Dark Side of the Road. Here, Ishmael explains their relationship: "We loved each other as much as two people can when one of them isn't entirely human." Penny is just as smart, sassy, and fearless as Eddie Drood's Molly Metcalf, and just as entertaining.
As soon as Ishmael and Penny arrive, they begin hearing tales of supernatural goings-on at Ringstone Lodge: heavy footsteps in the halls in the middle of the night, flickering lights, interference with the lodge's state-of-the-art security cameras, and flickering images on security computer screens of an unidentifiable man running through the hallways. Outside the Lodge is the previous owner's family graveyard, which contains the grave of an accused witch, so some of the Lodge's inhabitants suspect that her spirit may have stopped in for some spooky visits.
The plot takes off when someone is found stabbed to death in a securely locked room. Penny and Ishmael have already survived one murder-in-a-mansion bloodbath, so they're pretty sure that they will make it through this one. And so would everyone else, if they'd only follow Ishmael's constant demand that they stay together. But if they did that, there wouldn't be a story, and besides, these characters view Ishmael as a pompous, conceited know-it-all who can't possibly live up to his impossibly exaggerated reputation. So...they begin to go off alone—one by one—and mayhem ensues.
The best thing about all of Green's novels is his characteristic dry humor, particular when it comes to unveiling the personality traits of his characters. Even if you presented me with the following sentence completely out of context, I'd be able to give it a chuckle and identify Green as its author: "He looked the pizza parlour over as though he'd never set foot in such an establishment before and now, having done so, was convinced he'd been right all along." This revealing and humorous line could have been spoken by any of Green's protagonists, from John Taylor to Eddie Drood to Ishmael Jones. Here is Ishmael's take on the initial impression he makes on the residents of Ringstone Lodge: "A group of people stood waiting to meet us. They all had that look about them: fascinated to meet an actual field agent in the flesh, staring at me like I was some rare species in a zoo and just a bit disappointed I wasn't Daniel Craig."
In a slender story thread woven through the main plot, Ishmael struggles with nightmares in which his dark inner, original self threatens to overwhelm his human self. He tells Penny, "Sometimes I wonder if I'm just something that dreamed it was a man and loved it. And I am so scared of waking up..." He continues to have a nagging fear: "What if I was not a man? What if I was just a cage for something worse?"
If you are a reader of mysteries, you know that when authors drop specific details into their plots, those details can be either red herrings or pertinent clues to the solution of the mystery. In chapter two, Green gives us some very specific details, and it's up to you the reader to figure out which are important. If you guess correctly, you'll solve the mystery yourself before Green does his on-the-page reveal, but if you make the wrong choice, you'll have a satisfying surprise in the final chapter. Either way, this novel is an entertaining read with lots of suspense, quirky characters, snappy dialogue, and dry humor. This is a short novel—just 201 pages—so it's a great book to take along on your summer vacation. Also, if you (like me) have forgotten the details of the big reveal in the first book about Ishmael's origin story, Green eventually gets around to a recapitulation of that story about half-way through the book. (That's the problem with reading several books a week, including lots of series in which there is a year between books. It's hard to keep all of the story lines intact in my memory so I'm always grateful when authors reprise the key points from previous books.)
Although the title page and Amazon.com both list this book as having a September 1st publishing date, I checked it out of my local library on August 1st and Amazon is shipping the book out now. As I write this review, Amazon has not yet uploaded an excerpt, and I could not find any other source of excerpts during an Internet search. The UK publication date was May 4th, but Amazon UK does not offer an excerpt either. If and when I can find an excerpt, I’ll add the link here.
The series is set in modern-day England—a world that is mostly human and seemingly normal. But Ishmael knows better. After all, he has been hunting down unspeakable monsters since 1963. Back in his early days as a mercenary monster hunter he worked for Black Heir, Great Britain's secret government agency that deals with alien affairs ("Real aliens, that is. Visitors from Beyond, and all that."). For the past fifteen years, he has worked for the Organization under the supervision of the Colonel. Over the years, Ishmael and the Colonel have forged a father-son relationship that becomes both tragic and ironic in book one. Although Ishmael knows that he and the Colonel work for the Organization, he knows absolutely nothing about the Organization, and that's the way he wants it. Ishmael knows only that he gets his missions from the Colonel and that the Colonel protects Ishmael from his many pursuers. Ishmael explains that he deals "with people and things that the world was better off without. Sometimes I killed people. And sometimes I killed things that weren't even a little bit people. And I never felt bad about it once." (The Dark Side of the Road, p. 9)
If you are a fan of Simon R. Green's fiction, you'll immediately recognize Ishmael as being yet another in Green's string of smart, wry, competent, understated heroes—just like Eddie Drood and John Taylor. Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in the SECRET HISTORIES/EDDIE DROOD series. Click HERE to learn more about Green's NIGHTSIDE series.
BOOK 1: The Dark Side of the Road
Leave it to Simon R. Green to take a dark-and-stormy-night murder mystery and turn it inside out. The story begins like an Agatha Christie mystery with its isolated country-estate setting, snowstorm-bound cast of characters with secrets, and a serial killer in the midst of it all. Keep reading, though, and you'll soon run into two major paranormal identity twists—one regarding Ishmael and one regarding the murderer. It all adds up to an engrossing tale hallmarked by Green's inimitable sly, dry, and wry humor. Green sticks with the Christie model to the very end, revealing the murderer's identity before all of the surviving guests in the drawing room. Shades of Hercule Poirot!