Tuesday, 5 February 2008
‘Whispering Nickel Idols’ – Glen Cook (Roc Fantasy)
I’ve discovered the secrets of Khatovar, with the Black Company, but I’ve never spent any time walking the streets of TunFaire with Glen Cook’s other well known creation ‘Garrett P.I.’. This situation changed with my reading ‘Whispering Nickel Idols’, a book that is both typical Glen Cook and something different at the same time…
TunFaire is a city only just recovering from war and experiencing a large influx of returning soldiers. One of these soldiers is Garrett and ‘Whispering Nickel Idols’ is just one of the stories of his new career as a Private Eye. Strange things keep happening to Garrett and they may or may not be connected. Spontaneous human combustion, religious warfare and the disappearance of TunFaire’s leading underworld figure. It’s all going to add up to a lot of work for Garrett who wouldn’t mind so much if he was actually being paid for any of it!
Yet again I’ve made the move of coming into a series right at the very end, without reading any of the preceding novels, and Glen Cook doesn’t make it any easier by throwing names and characters about with no regard for the casual reader. Having read the ‘Black Company’ series I wasn’t expecting any such niceties off Cook, he tells the story just the way that he wants it told and if readers aren’t up to it then they know what to do! On the other hand though, the story itself adheres to pretty much everything ‘noir fiction’ (which is great as far as I’m concerned) and is fairly easy to follow once you’ve waded past the names and background history. There were plenty of questions raised which kept me reading to find the answers and these were punctuated with enough fights and altercations to keep things spiced up. There’s also a dry laconic humour that suffuses the whole book. Sometimes this feels overdone (as every character seems to have the same sense of humour) but on the whole it fits in nicely with the atmosphere that Cook is trying to create. The only thing that got me (in a big way) was that Cook decided, about three quarters of the way through the book, that Garrett wasn’t up to the job and introduced an omnipotent undead creature that read minds and told Garrett how to wrap things up. This came across as a big ‘get out of jail free card’ and also robbed several plot strands of any impact. It also relegated Garrett from hero to a mere bystander. After such a great beginning to the book, I had to wonder why Cook felt the need to conclude it in such a manner. Was this an attempt at being subversive? I don’t know…
I’m a big fan of Glen Cook so will probably pick up other books in the ‘Garrett P.I.’ series if I find any. However, his treatment of this particular tale has left me wary. Great atmosphere and build up that is spoilt by a needlessly weak ending.
Six out of Ten