Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hawk & Fisher

Although I'm reading an omnibus edition, I'll be reviewing each novel of the Hawk & Fisher series individually. The first novel is called, simply enough, Hawk & Fisher.

I've been preaching for some time now that fantasy fans who only read fantasy are really missing out. A lot of other genres have a lot to offer, and as a player of fantasy roleplaying games, that's even more true. If I can take conventions, tropes, and ideas from other genres and work them into my fantasy gaming, that will only make it all the stronger. But, as long as I've been saying that, I haven't been saying that as long as some people have been doing it, and Simon R. Green's 1991 novel Hawk & Fisher is a mystery novel in a fantasy setting. Not only is it a mystery novel, it's almost a cliched, tired, stereotypical mystery novel... except that that fantasy setting makes it fresh again.

Hawk and Fisher---the main characters as well as the title of the novel, are a husband and wife team; the supposedly only honest guardsmen in the entire "police" force of the corrupt port of Haven. (I found it odd that a totally corrupt city is called haven, when the Thieves World guys used the synonym Sanctuary for their own totally corrupt city. For that matter, Green Ronin's Freeport setting as a pirate capital is kinda playing on the same riff.) We get treated to an early display of their competence when they have to put down a vampire in a tough neighborhood as the opening scene, but quickly they get invited into the classic mystery set-up.

They are assigned as bodyguards for an important reform-minded Councilman, and he's going to a small, private party at the sorcerer Gaunt's house that evening, along with his wife and a little more than half a dozen other folks. There's a murder, and it's clear very quickly that one of the guests must be the murderer. The sorcerer magically locks down his house until morning; no one can enter or leave. Hawk & Fisher need to discover the murderer before that time.

Of course, it's not simple. As they start interviewing the guests, all kinds of things don't add up about their stories. Everyone becomes a suspect; everyone's got things to hide. And before long, more people start getting murdered.

If you have any interest in the way a classic murder mystery novel is set up, this is an interesting case study, because like I said, this book is by the numbers murder mystery. The fantasy setting, though, adds some unique elements. Vampires, werewolves, demons, magic spells; all of it becomes important as the story goes on. It's not very long; in omnibus form, it came in at less than 180 pages, but I read it fairly quickly, so I think that even in standalone format this book would have been fairly short. But I recommend it. The title characters are interesting, the setting is interesting, and for me, I was especially delighted to read a mystery novel with the trappings of a fantasy novel.

Because it's an omnibus, I'm going to continue on into the next one before reading anything else (I think---unless my interlibrary loan shows up and I need to read it right away), so I'll probably have three Hawk and Fisher novels reviewed in relatively short order.

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