Blood and Rain
Speaking Volumes, LLC
256 Pages, $14.95, Paperback
Review by Darkeva
He steals from the people he kills, he’s a lone wolf with a shady past, and he’s an ex-drug addict and former boxer involved in law enforcement. Meet John Dark, the protagonist of Blood and Rain, a fantasy noir detective mash-up that has John assigned to find Felicia Richardson, a bright young teenager, who trusted the wrong person and got kidnapped. Dark is a no-nonsense protagonist who doesn’t beat around the bush.
The first chapter drew me in right away with a strong opening that introduces us to a distinct main character who is a refreshing change from the good cop trying desperately not to become corrupt. He works for a cop, Joe Briggs, who calls him only slightly above garbage because of John’s involvement in the death of Brigg’s daughter (and John’s former flame), Kira, who haunts John throughout most of the novel, humanizing him and making him more redeemable.
Although the author, B.L. Morgan, did a decent job with Julia and especially Felicia, who is a bright student good at chess, he would have done well to avoid some of the stereotypical representations of African-Americans he employs. There are also some glaring typographical, typesetting, and grammatical errors as well as unnecessary redundancies that a solid proofread would have fixed.
The dialogue, however, sizzled and felt authentic in most places with a few exceptions. John’s exchanges with his best friend, the bartender Johnny, as rude and vulgar as they were, gave the impression that these two have been friends for many years.
A word to the wise: some of the humour in the book is a matter of personal taste. There are numerous scatological references in the story, which I personally find uninteresting and unnecessary. However, readers who take little offence to such things will likely read right over them and hardly notice.
The novel also suffers from its confusion of voodoo with black magic, something the author does here. It’s a common misconception, but it’s important to get such details correct if you’re going to build a world where readers will suspend disbelief and be willing to follow you. Most readers who enjoy supernatural fiction will be willing to overlook this, but some of the misrepresentations include drinking blood and midnight rituals, sacrificing humans to “dark Gods,” conducting voodoo ceremonies without a priest, incorrect terminology, references to demons and pentagrams, demonic possession, demonic summoning, etc. However, Morgan does reference the correct use of drums, and uses the correct term for a voodoo sorcerer, which is bokor.
Back to the novel’s strengths, there is Lisa, a crack whore John was commissioned to find a few years ago. She is ultimately a tragic but powerful figure, and in her, John feels like he can make up for his girlfriend Kira’s death in some way.
The villains, however, needed a bit more work. I found it unrealistic that one of them was shot multiple times by one character and then died when another character pulled the trigger with the same gun. As for the second villain who emerged in the second half, I didn’t buy that he would be scared of a gun if he were as powerful as he said, nor did I find his “dangerous” factor convincing.
The novel reminded me of Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg, which also features a similar plot (the author, B.L. Morgan, also borrows the name of a major character from the book).
All things considered, the plot threads get resolved, John lives on to fight another day, and the novel comes to a satisfying conclusion. Readers can enjoy each book in the series as a standalone or they can read the volumes in sequence. Overall, if you’re into noir-style dark fantasy fiction, you may want to give Blood and Rain a shot. For readers interested in the same sub-genre of noiresque crime fiction with some speculative elements, I would also recommend some of Tom Piccirrili’s more recent books, including Every Shallow Cut, the Harry Dresden books, and Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. Mystery readers will definitely enjoy this gritty, violent, and sexually charged book as well as fantasy and supernatural fiction fans who enjoy crime stories.