Shadows of the Opera: Retribution in Blood is another great collection of interconnected short stories by Rick Lai. These are "Wold Newton" stories that make use of characters (and hints) from the Phantom of the Opera, the Black Coats (an interesting series of novels about a criminal empire written in France in the 1800s and republished by Black Coat Press), the Shadow and others. "Wold Newton" is a reference to a concept put forth by Philip Jose Farmer, that tries to link together various fictitious characters into a consistent universe (am WAY oversimplifying it). Some don't care for the concept, and all the characters and hints can be confusing to many not familiar with the original stories that come form (which includes me to a degree) and this can be off putting to some (instead of leading them to read the originals, which is what usually happens in my case).
This volume is the second in the "Shadows of the Opera" series. One more volume is planned. There is also a "side sequel" that has one volume out already.
The basic setup is this. In the original Phantom of the Opera novel, there is a little seen, but very mysterious character who also haunted the Opera (no, that's not made up, the character does exist, and in fact they quote from the novel the few passages that mention this character). So Rick's idea is that this character is actually an ancestor of The Shadow, who is trained by the Phantom and takes on the name of The Revenant, setting up a network of other agents to fight the Black Coats and other villainous characters such as Countess Cagliostro (from the Arsene Lupin stories and others), known as the Acolytes of the Shadows. One of the most important of these is the Jade Seraph.
As noted, this is not a novel, but a collection of 9 short stories, which proceed in chronological order. While they are more or less standalone, they should be read in order, as they progress the story of the Revenant and her associates forward. Many of the stories, however, start in the past to give background on various characters who are important in that story. In one story we learn of a group called the Six Vigilante Men who opposed the Black Coats. These characters are cast as the forefathers to the later Four Just Men (created by Edgar Wallace). In another story, we learn of the early life and background of a certain dangerous Asian doctor, and in another, the early life and career of another dangerous master criminal and terrorist. An early heroic character in the Black Coats was Pistolet. We learn his fate, and about his descendant. An agent of the Black Coats almost succeeds in infiltrating the Acolytes in another story. Sherlock Holmes and his brother Mycroft play a part in another that closes the book on one of Holmes' cases. Two stories also sets up the background for the "side sequel", Sisters of the Shadows, as one sets up the background between Josephine Balsamo and Irina Putine, while another focuses on the background and heritage of Josephine Balsamo.
Also included is an afterwards that explains the origin of the various characters, and a list of characters and their creators. This helps greatly in understanding many of the characters and their origins.
Note that the first book in this series was published by Wild Cat Books, but don't know if it will be reprinted by Black Coat Press. This book and the first "side sequel" book Sisters of The Shadows: The Curse of Cagliostro are from Black Coat Press. At least one more book is planned in this series, It seems two are planned for the "side sequel" series. I will be doing reviews of the rest as they come out.
What I love about this book and the one before it, ' Shadows of the Opera', is that in the movie in my mind, the books come alive like a cool late 60's, early 70's movie. Hammer Films costumes and sets and actors like Caroline Munro, Diana Rigg, Julie Newmar and Yvonne Craig have starring roles.
Very much 19th Century France according to the swinging 60's/70's.
The author, Rick Lai weaves a fantastic tapestry, involving fascinating characters from international literature and cinema, in with his own heroic, crusading female heroes! Lot's of authors CLAIM to write strong women heroes. Rick Lai delivers!