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Hot Lead, Cold Iron: A Mick Oberon Job
Ari Marmell
Titan Books, 313 pages

Hot Lead, Cold Iron: A Mick Oberon Job
Ari Marmell
Ari Marmell was born in 1974 in New York. A year later, his family moved to Houston. He went to college at the University of Houston, beginning in the Psychology program, then changed his major to Creative Writing. Graduating in 1996, he married the next year and, in 2001, moved to Austin in mid-2001 so his wife George could attend graduate school while he continued to work as a freelance writer. His first published novel, Gehenna: The Final Night, a World of Darkness book, appeared on shelves in January of 2004.

Ari Marmell Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Goblin Corps
SF Site Review: The Conqueror's Shadow
SF Site Review: Gehenna: The Final Night

A review by Sandra Scholes

Usually know for penning role-playing game materials for Dungeons & Dragons and the World of Darkness series, Ari Marmell tries his hand at fantasy novels with a difference. Mick Oberon is a private detective working during the 1930s, wearing a fedora and overcoat. He looks the part, but he's hiding something -- some pointed ears as he is actually a Fae who is very handy with a wand. Hired to find a gangster's daughter after she was believed to have been replaced with a changeling, he is drawn from Chicago's criminal world to the Otherworld of his own Fae people to solve the case.

In Marmell's "A Brief Word on Language," he makes a note of informing the reader that he has taken the time to make sure the criminal slang he uses in the book would be easy to read as it is derived from the 1930s gangster era. It is easy to understand, and rather than it being pushed into the story, Marmell uses it in a comic way that works really well. Hot Lead, Cold Iron starts by introducing us to Mick Oberon in an office being beaten up by a guy he nicknames "muscles" for added humour value. He tries to persuade local gangsters he is just a janitor who had to break in as he'd forgotten his keys and uniform but Mick isn't believed and "muscles" continues to "tap on my ribs again, maybe to see if anyone was home." The gangsters still think that Mick is in the wrong even when backup arrives in the form of Lieutenant Keenan. We see another aspect of Mick's personality though. He wears a holster, but doesn't really carry a weapon -- he carries a whitewood wand instead.

Like Rivers of London and The Dresden Files, this is a supernatural suspense thriller that has a fantasy world hidden away in it. Mick prefers hiding among the humans as they are easier to understand, but he hates going back to the underworld he is as familiar with as he is with his own kind, and he doesn't ever want that. It is obvious from the story that he has been on Earth many hundreds of years and under many names like the aes sidhe, and the Tuatha De Danann. Their having to live underworld could be blamed on the humans, but he doesn't like his own people. He was a prince of the Seelie Court, but he had stayed in the human world for a reason he doesn't like to mention. Marmell goes into some detail on why his kind don't get on with new technology as it harms them, as they are ethereal, pure beings of the natural world and it leaves you wondering how he copes with everyday living. The changeling's mother, Bianca Ottati hires him to find her real daughter after she was replaced by a faery child. She hopes Mick will find her before her husband discovers she is missing. It doesn't help that Bianca comes from a mob family and her daughter had displayed some very unfeminine characteristics that alerted her to thinking she wasn't really her daughter. Her daughter had been fighting with other children at school, and showed a very violent temper for a girl, which according to lore in this book is what Fae children can be like. No wonder Mick doesn't want to go back home. As Bianca's husband has been kept busy with mob business, his wife knows that it is only a matter of time before he gets to know his daughter isn't normal when news surface of her foul temper, tantrums and fights at her school.

For a fantasy thriller, this one made me sit up and take notice more than if it had only been a fantasy novel. Mick Oberon comes across as a character who has seen it all and known all the types of men and women he could during his lifetime. He uses his quick wit to outfox even the most cunning and intelligent criminals -- and he comes across many in this story. He doesn't want to return to his homeland as he has a very good reason not to, but that doesn't stop him from having to take on the case. Hot Lead, Cold Iron is only one in a series of these novels; you might want to check them out on the strength of this one.

Copyright © 2014 Sandra Scholes

Over the past few months, Sandra has been reviewing some nice Japanese anime, manga and novels for her blog over at JapanReviewer and other reviews for these: Diverse Japan, Active Anime, Fantasy Book Review, Albedo One and the British Fantasy Society.

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