Tuesday, 15 September 2009
‘Burn Me Deadly’ – Alex Bledsoe (Tor)
I don’t know about you but one of the best feelings in the world (at least, as far as reading is concerned) is the one you get when you pick up a book, for the first time, and by the time you’ve finished you just know that you that you’re in for the long haul, no matter how long that is.
This is exactly the feeling I had when I picked up Alex Bledsoe’s ‘The Sword Edged Blonde’ way back in July. You may think that a hard-bitten ‘sword for hire’/detective is nothing new but I think you’ll change your mind once you’ve read Bledsoe’s storming debut. Anyway... After finishing ‘The Sword Edged Blonde’ I didn’t want to be caught napping again (it took me almost two years to get round to reading the book) and resolved to get hold of the sequel as soon as possible. Even then, it’s taken me longer than I though to finally get around to reading it. ‘Burn Me Deadly’ was well worth the wait though, as far as I’m concerned it’s even better than the first one...
Life has a habit of throwing surprises at private investigator Eddie LaCrosse, up to (and including) having half naked ladies run out in front of his horse in the dead of night. This wouldn’t be a bad surprise for some but it’s about to be followed by a couple of nasty ones. The next thing Eddie knows, he’s at the bottom of a cliff with the now dead woman and having to move sharpish to avoid his falling horse.
Who killed Laura Lesperitt and why? Eddie’s promise of protection didn’t get her very far so he feels duty bound to track down her killers. In the middle of crime bosses and royal scandals, it’s the arrival of a backwoods dragon cult that will turn Eddie’s world upside down...
‘Burn Me Deadly’ is a book that you can just pick up and read, even if you haven’t already read ‘The Sword Edged Blonde’. The plot is very self-contained with enough explanatory passages to give the first time reader a thorough grounding without being overwhelming. It’s worth picking up the ‘Sword Edged Blonde’ though, just to get a broader picture of how Eddie develops as a character and the impact of this on the plot. While ‘Sword Edged Blonde’ was more of a fun filled romp, ‘Burn Me Deadly’ is a darker affair that examines Eddie’s demons in a little more depth.
The reader is treated to more of the darkness that resides in Eddie LaCrosse, a darkness that was only hinted at in the last book. Here is a man who isn’t above dropping people off cliffs himself and will torture people to find what he is after. However, Eddie has a code of honour that he will always adhere to and this is what sets him apart from those he is after. Even if it is just a case of honouring his dead horse, Eddie really believes that he is doing the right thing and what he is prepared to do in pursuit of this adds another level of intensity to the plot. Just when you think you’ve got him pegged, Eddie will always surprise you!
The plot itself is very much the same as ‘Sword Edged Blonde’ as far as ‘grizzled private eye tackles a case’ goes. I guess there are only so many places you can take a plot like this. Bledsoe makes up for this though by upping the ante on pretty much everything else. The villains are more devious, the fights more brutal and the underlying mystery even trickier to negotiate let alone solve! This time round it’s also clear that no-one can be trusted and that means everyone. Bledsoe takes the opportunity to plant loads of red herrings which makes for a plot that constantly has its readers on their toes and gives you plenty to think about. The way it all ties together at the end is masterfully done.
If I had one complaint it would be that, again (something I found in ‘The Sword Edged Blonde’), the balance between ‘fantasy’ and ‘hard boiled detective fiction’ is skewed to the detriment of the fantasy setting the book has a backdrop. A horse is a horse (not a car) but Bledsoe’s horses are very much 1950’s American Sedans and this made for some odd reading at times. You would push a car over a cliff but would you do the same to a horse when all you had to do was sell the saddle etc? I also got that ‘why are American detectives and cops waving swords at each other?’ feeling again.
It’s all part of the charm though (if you’ve read the first book then you will know what to expect) and it’s only really a small niggle when the end result is a book that I found to be compulsive reading. Like I said, I’m in for the long haul.
Nine and a Quarter out of Ten