Wendig’s words wind and whip, while wounding with wonder! Kidding. There’s no alliteration in the story, but, man, the word-play at Wendig’s fingertips is incredibly entertaining. The story features lifelong thug, Mookie Pearl, and the fate of the criminal organization he works for. An organization called…The Organization. The heart of the matter, however, is Mookie’s estranged relationship with is wife and obstreperous daughter. That’s what provides the central emotional tension. The situation is specially tense since Pearl’s daughter is stirring up the underworld both above and below the New York after putting a bullet in Pearl’s partner’s hip. The mix of supernatural criminals from Hell and the humans that stand between them and us regular folk are painted with a brutal brush that’s a welcome addition to the urban fantasy genre. Precious few characters aren’t grizzled and spent, their lives an unending grind that doesn’t let up.
There’s a healthy dose of noir here as Pearl, a Neanderthalic and preternaturally large human being, lumbers through his life as an enforcer for the order that keeps the supernatural from spilling into the daylight. By Wendig’s description, Pearl resembles “The Goon.” (And if you haven’t read the The Goon, byIt’s a wonder he was with a woman long enough to get married and have a daughter. But the that was a long time ago. Nowadays, he works with the hybrid goat-man Werth, breaking knees for The Organization where most others fear to tread: in the Down Below. Complicating matters is the existence of Cerulean, a drug called the “blue” amongst those in the know. Blue allows the user to see through the glamour underworld denizens—of which there are many—use to mask their true appearance. Central to Mookies problems are Gobbos (Goblins), seemingly mindless marauders, and Ernesto Candlefly, a mysterious associate of The Organization’s boss. Everything seems to go right and wrong at the same time with Pearl and that’s the very broken heart of noir.
For me, Wendig’s story shines when he’s mixing supernatural elements with what we consider reality. Fast-paced and brutal, Mookie’s ham-handed antics are a pleasure as this man-mountain past his prime attempts to save the world—after he patches things up with his daughter. But Mookie’s not much of a thinker, he’s a doer, in his own words, and these problems require him to come up with solutions more nuanced than stomping someone’s head into the ground.