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In Plain Sight (Arcane Casebook) Hardcover – April 13, 2021
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When a magical plague is released in a Depression-era New York soup kitchen, private detective Alex Lockerby finds himself in a desperate hunt to catch a madman before he can strike again.
His investigations lead Alex to a famous thief, a daring heist, and the search for a mythic book of ancient magic, but none of that brings him any closer to finding the man responsible for the massacre. With the police and New York’s Council of Sorcerers desperate to find the culprit, Alex becomes a suspect himself, thanks to his ties to the priest who ran the soup kitchen.
Now Alex has his book of spells, a pack of matches and four days to find out where the plague came from, or that authorities will hang the crime squarely on him.
--“Dan Willis is an awesome writer and you should buy this book.” - NYT bestselling author Larry Correia.
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- ASIN : B092H93PJ9
- Publisher : Independently published (April 13, 2021)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 274 pages
- ISBN-13 : 979-8733719528
- Item Weight : 1.05 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.88 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,629,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on October 31, 2020
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Top reviews from the United States
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Accesory tl;dr -- If there's any primary takeaway, let it be this: The author spends multiple full pages in total, across the span of the novel, describing in great detail the appearances, sensuality, sexuality, femininity, and overall attractiveness of the main important female characters. I don't think there's more than two or three sentences actually describing the appearance of the main character, save for when it becomes vaguely plot relevant at the very end, throughout the whole novel. And even at the end that moment has no narrative weight whatsoever.
(Now, I don't think that's a BAD thing, but it's a very informative thing. It tells you a lot about the authors priorities, and helpfully starts on page 3 so you know very early if you want to sit through that kind of book)
Plenty of reviews discuss the premise of the book -- noir detective with an admittedly interesting, if somewhat scatterbrained, magic system, etc. It's a pulp fiction novel, and expecting anything less is nonsensical. Like many pulp novels, it works because it's not amazing. The premise is unique but not particularly gripping. The writing is decent at times, but often tells the audience the solutions without doing any foreshadowing of any kind, and there is a pronounced absence of tangible consequence that the main character, Alex, experiences. Consequences that viscerally change the narrative or perceptions of Alex, or that have significant emotional weight.
The obvious comparison is Storm Front, from the Dresden Files. Harry uses multiple resources to resolve the case of the novel, and it costs him tangibly. A murder he could have prevented had he trusted his friend, which has genuine emotional weight at the end of the book. A damaged relationship with an extremely powerful vampire who swears vengeance against him. A near-broken relationship with his friend, who we have come to appreciate over the text. Etc, etc, etc.
In 'In Plain Sight', Alex uses resources, but the consequences just...aren't there. He gets hurt. He loses something ephemeral that is not given any particular narrative weight by anyone in the book except one character. Someone dies, but he explicitly thinks of it as not his fault, even if he had influence on it occurring. There is a substantial absence of tension throughout the book, regardless of what the narration says. To be clear, I don't think this is an objectively bad thing, but it severely changes the tone of the book.
The writing itself is as the headline says. Stiff in that narration, exposition and dialogue often abruptly change from one to the other when new information needs to be delivered to a reader, instead of when they would flow together naturally. Dialogue is stale, and so are it's descriptions. The sentence, '"That bastard." Leslie looked shocked.' informed me much of what I needed to know about how the author wrote around his dialogue. There is an awful lot of 'he said | she said | he said | she said' and very little emotion except the emotion that you are TOLD is being experienced, instead of shown.
Finally, the writing is indulgent to a fault. The author enjoys telling the audience how smart Alex is, and rarely are we shown this. We are given no chance to see the details of the crime scene that Alex uses to form his deductions. He simply manifests them from the aether as soon as the novel sees fit to remind us that somehow, a room full of cops and two detectives explicitly characterized as good at their job, SOMEHOW, missed a plaque hanging on a wall that tells everyone what the victim's occupation was. Only the main character sees it, because that's just how smart and observant he is. This happens again. And again. And again. And when it isn't happening, the writing uses lazy cop-outs to skip past sections that could be written interestingly. Well over half a dozen times is the line "He then explained everything that had happened at the crime scene" used, instead of characters actually talking to each other and communicating.
In short; It's pulp fiction. It's wonderfully indulgent in it's 1930's noir detective setting. The cigarettes, the bourbon, the banter, it's all there. And when it works, it's a fun read. I will probably buy the next book because it was a fun read when it worked. But when it didn't, it was a slog that had me cringing and groaning aloud at the poor and lazy writing, indulgent narration, and the profound absence of narrative tension or weight. And also the emphasis on how all the ladies are sexy and feminine and one particular gal gets her vest cut in 'below her small breasts to emphasize them', which Alex apparently thinks means that she is trying to minimize her own sexuality only a sentence or two later?
That rather confused me, tbh.
Top reviews from other countries
I wouldn't say I am excited about reading the rest of the series, but I am intrigued and if I come across the books I would definitely give them a go.
The majority of the plot kept me guessing, which I really enjoy as I wanted to keep reading and find out what was going on.
It was a great pace and made sense, a lot of crime books use a lot of jargon you have to look up and this didn't.
Alex was an interesting character to follow, I love Iggy and would love to read an origins story for him. I enjoy crime books and books about magic, this was a great way to combine the two!
Even better, it's a series so I'm off to read book two
Who killed his friend?
Who killed a stranger and eluded the police after a sting?
What is the Archimedan Monograph?
Why do so many powerful sorcerers, governments want it?
Very well written in the style of Jim Butchers' Harry Dresden or PN Elrods' Jack Fleming. Great pulpy laugh and solid characterization