It occurs to me that I've been rather lax about reposting my reviews for SFX magazine here, lately.
My review of Elspeth Cooper's somewhat disappointing debut Songs of the Earth appeared on their website in June, and shortly afterwards in the magazine; below is another review of a debut fantasy, from late summer: Daniel Polansky's hardboiled, and rather better, The Straight Razor Cure.
A hardboiled noir set in an invented city not unlike early 19th-century London, told in a voiceover - sorry, first-person narration - saturated with world-weary snark, this is a thoroughly entertaining page-turner. It centres on a disgraced former detective turned drug dealer, nicknamed the Warden, who - much against his better judgement and carefully cultivated indifference to others - is drawn back into the game when he stumbles across the brutalised body of a child in his neighbourhood.
Somewhere between Lynch and Abercrombie on the grim fantasy scale, Cure wears its world-building lightly; while the nature of the tale means that we see little of society beyond cops, criminals, and victims, the host of small details thrown up during the Warden's investigations means the city feels like a place that functions outside the frame of the story. In particular, through his narrator's interactions with the city's immigrant underclass (Chinatown, thinly veiled), Polansky sensitively and economically sketches out the contours of a community ducking its host country's distaste while also fulfilling its needs.
The whodunnit is strung out long past the point where its solution is obvious, but there is at least a reasonably convincing character reason for the narrator's selective plot blindness, and the consequences are both bleak and far-reaching.