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Dog Days
John Levitt
Ace, 297 pages

Dog Days
John Levitt
John Levitt grew up in New York City. He attended the University of Chicago leaving to travel the country and ending up in San Francisco doing light shows for bands, learning to play guitar. A few years later, while working at a ski lodge in Alta, Utah, he decided to join the Salt Lake City Police Department. He stayed for seven years before writing his first book, a police thriller.

John Levitt Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Katherine Petersen

Mason excels at improvisation, both in his jazz guitar playing and in his magic. He could probably play better music and be a better magical practitioner if he wanted, but he's content with his life as it is. Well, content enough until magical attacks start coming from nowhere to affect the status quo. He manages to deflect them by improvising magic from the feel, emotion, scent and physicality of his environment. He also has the help of his ifrit, Louie, a sort-of dog/familiar. He looks similar to a small Doberman pinscher and can sniff out danger, but he acts like a dog (his enthusiasm for food, for example) often enough for one to almost forget he's not.

As a former Enforcer who kept the magical practitioners of San Francisco in line, Mason seeks assistance from his former Enforcer colleagues, Victor and Eli, both strong practitioners and his ex-girlfriend, Sherwood. In addition to attacks on Mason and Louie, other practitioners' ifrits mysteriously disappear. It will take the brains, the ingenuity and the skills of all of them to hopefully figure out what's going on, track down and conquer the evil doer.

As a character, Mason is as close to a "regular guy" as I've seen in an urban fantasy novel, and it's refreshing. He accepts that he has magic but doesn't seek to be the best of the best as many characters do. While the plot gets off to a bit of a slow start, it works well and moves quickly once it picks up steam. John Levitt has a gift for descriptions of people and places and especially how Mason pulls from his environment for his improvisational magic. Many of these situations might have seemed forced under the hand of a lesser talent than Levitt.

I like how the magical practitioners aren't that much different than non-magical people. With Mason's grounding in reality, it makes it easy to believe in the magical aspects of the world he creates. Levitt clearly knows San Francisco well and uses the city to its fullest by giving us glimpses of people, magical or not, and places we will recognize.

He also portrays relationships well, from the confrontational one between Mason and Victor to the strong bond between Mason and Louie to the romance between Mason and Campbell, a local healer. While Levitt introduces a romantic relationship into the mix, it supplements the plot as opposed to overshadowing it.

While the reader has some idea of who is behind the magical attacks, it would be difficult to guess the full extent of what the villain(s) have in mind. John Levitt has written a terrific urban fantasy tale with realistic characters. He has a way with words, especially with Mason's cynicism and dry wit. I look forward to reading New Tricks and Unleashed, the next two installments in this series.

Copyright © 2009 Katherine Petersen

Katherine Petersen started reading as a young child and hasn't stopped. She still thinks she can read all the books she wants, but might, at some point, realize the impossibility of this mission. While she enjoys other genres, she thrives on fantasy, science fiction and mysteries.

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