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Stalking the Unicorn: A John Justin Mallory Mystery Paperback – August 1, 2008
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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From Publishers Weekly
This enchanting blend of fantasy and hard-boiled detection, back in print after two decades, heralds a new series from prolific multiple-award–winner Resnick, best-known for his Birthright Universe series. On a gloomy New Year's Eve, recently bereft of wife and partner, down-and-out New York City PI John Justin Mallory is hired by Mürgenstürm, a little green elf who wants Mallory to track down a stolen unicorn. After gradually accepting that his client is not an alcohol-fueled hallucination, Mallory deftly takes on a shadow city of demons, leprechauns and gnomes even as he learns that his own future hinges on the unicorn's recovery. The crisp dialogue and imaginative setting will have many fantasy readers wanting to revisit Manhattan's magical side. (Aug.) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."
Originally published in 1987, this novel introduced John Justin Mallory, the world-weary New York City private investigator who wound up working cases in the “hidden” New York, the one that exists alongside the familiar NYC but behind the scenes. The story begins on New Year’s Eve. Mallory’s wife has run off with his partner; he’s broke and facing the prospect of being evicted. Then a client walks through his door, a most unexpected client: an elf, Murgensturm, who claims that someone has kidnapped a unicorn he was looking after, and if the unicorn isn’t found by daybreak, the Elves’ Guild will kill him. Naturally, Mallory thinks he’s hallucinating—he’s been drowning his sorrows in place of celebrating the new year—but, when the elf reveals the hidden Manhattan and its strange creatures (cat people, leprechauns, talking horses, and plenty more), Mallory jumps into the case with both feet. Unfortunately, he is new to alternate reality and doesn’t fully appreciate the dangers in it—dangers like the Grundy, a powerful demon who’s responsible for most of the evil in this New York and, it seems, in the “real” NY, too. Genre-bending is commonplace today, but back in the mid–1980s, it was out of the ordinary to impose a traditional fantasy story on the very real, very gritty landscape of the contemporary private-eye novel. A harbinger of what was to come, the book immediately caught on with readers, and it’s easy to see why. It’s clever, funny, and exciting, with a likable hero, plenty of offbeat supporting characters, and that beguiling blend of fantasy and mystery. --David Pitt
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Anyway, John Justin Mallory is a private eye who is down on his luck; his wife left him, he's out of money and he has no clients. And then he sees a little green elf in his office. Instead of a fantasy though, the elf turns out to be real and he needs some help to find a unicorn that has been stolen. Mallory follows Murgenstrum to another Manhattan populated with demons, trolls, elves, leprechauns and other fun, fantastical creatures. Once there, the search takes Mallory on a bunch of humorous adventures with entertaining characters.
The wry humor is prevalent throughout the whole book and just plain fun to read. Mixed in with all the fun, Resnick provides some interesting perspectives on today's city life. The only negative I had with the book was that it seemed to bring some characters in solely to populate a scene for a single joke and that would be it. We wouldn't see them again. Considering that you have a detective making his way through a city though and he has to hunt down some clues, he can't really find humorous situations with the same characters the entire time. In the big picture, a very minor point. I would encourage you to hunt down this book and give it a try. If you enjoy fantasy and pulp noir, you'll like it. I know that I'm going to be ordering the next book of Detective John Justin Mallory: STALKING THE VAMPIRE.
Gillespie double crosses Grundy so Mallory on this alternate earth searches for the impish leprechaun. He gets helps from Felina the cat-girl, who adores him and is at his side as he makes his inquiries. A small talking horse informs Mallory that Larkspur is special because on her forehead is a magical ruby that is the gateway between earths. Something happens and his quest becomes personal. Mallory must find the ruby or become trapped on this alternate Manhattan that is weirder than his birth side as elves, goblins, dwarves and other make up part of the populace. Worse some want the outsider dead.
Mike Resnick shows why he is a first class storyteller who switches from his more serious works to a lighthearted whimsical urban fantasy filled with interesting characters from various mythological species and of course a somewhat stunned human sleuth. The tale located in Manhattan is fascinating as there is no telling what might crawl out of the subway (sounds actually like the NYC I grew up in). The hero is a Phillip Marlowe type placed in a strange yet similar environs and his investigation is very entertaining as he follows clues that seem slightly off kilter in his mind.
Stalking the Unicorn instantly had me hooked with the appealing characters, interesting plot, and tongue-in-cheek humor. The story flowed well and at a nice, clipped pace for a good part of the book. Unfortunately, it fizzled out a little bit nearer the end and lost some of my interest. I think too much was revealed too soon and the book probably could have lost around thirty pages. However, the plot picked back up some of its steam at the end, which saved the book from being three stars. Altogether, this is an easy and fun read that's a good starter to a series, and which I look forward to the next installments. If you like absurd humor, zany dialogue, detective work, and an urban fantasy setting all mixed into one big stew, than you'll probably enjoy this book.
Fun fact: Mike Resnick is the father of author Laura Resnick. I picked both of their books up about the same time without realizing it until after I had read her first Esther Diamond book. :)