Sunday, February 22, 2004

Review: "Agents of Light and Darkness" by Simon R. Green

John Taylor finds things. If you're looking for something in the Nightside, the dark underbelly of London where it's always 3 a.m. and everything has a price, he's your guy. But in "Agents of Light and Darkness" ($6.50, Ace), Taylor finds himself out of his depth.

In this tale, Simon R. Green's detective finds himself inundated with offers he can't refuse. The Grail has come to the Nightside, but not the one you might expect. This is the Unholy Grail, the cup that Judas Iscariot drank from at the Last Supper.

With everyone from sorcerers to Howard Hughes - who didn't really die, but rather "moved to another plane for tax purposes" - seeking Taylor's services in the matter, he settles on a seemingly friendly priest named Jude who carries a hefty purse and claims to represent the Vatican.

Though Taylor is the best at what he does, this case proves more challenging when the angels arrive in the Nightside, and it may land him in some serious trouble that even his fearsome reputation can't get him out of.

In Green's second book about John Taylor, he builds on the detective's legend nicely. Taylor, though faced with a dire immediate situation, remains focused on finding out about his mother. She's the reason Taylor has his mysterious rep and a secret that everyone in the Nightside seems to know. But everyone also seems scared to share that secret with him.

Green's Nightside has one of the most colorful casts you'll find this side of Terry Pratchett. From his sidekick Shotgun Suzie, a female Rambo who takes her fashion cues from Emma Peel, to the Bedlam Boys, a washed-up boy band with the psychic powers to terrorize innocent bystanders (hmm … imagine that), the characters are almost as entertaining as the story itself.

That story follows a fairly basic private eye novel arc, provided that your favorite private eye has to deal with vampires, wizards and the occasional angry angel, of course. Taylor is a likeable character, a must in the world of private eye novels, and it's easy to root for him.

The result is a quick, light and fun novel that will eat up a couple of hours and leave you ready for another trip to the Nightside.

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