Written by Sanford Begley
I believe I reviewed Rob Howell’s first book A Lake Most Deep earlier. If I didn’t I should have. Howell makes an interesting combination of Noir detectives and Byzantium locations that is funny and straight at the same time. His latest, The Eyes Of A Doll is no exception.
I must admit this book disappointed me at first, I had started expecting the Noir goodness of the first one from the get go this time. It actually took three or four pages to really hit its stride. The hero, a warrior from the Seven Kingdoms (i.e. viking) is traveling to the capitol to join the Imperial Guard (Varangians) and has made a “temporary” stop in a city en route. Well, he winds up as the local private eye. With hard punching action, colorful allies and enemies, beautiful broads and all the other accouterments of a Noir Detective. Right down to his frenemy relationships with both the cops and the underworld.
Along the way stop and savor the foods he describes. Many of them are obvious nods to food that is still eaten in eastern Europe, the Balkans, Greece and the Levant today. His description of the reactions of the Sevener to the food rings true to what the Vikings would have thought. Much of the culture resonates with what I understand is the culture of the area, then, and to some degree, today.
In many ways I am reminded of an old James Garner movie called Support Your Local Sheriff where James Garner played a man who was just passing through town and wound up as sheriff. Of course during the whole movie he kept saying that he was on his way to Australia, this was just a temporary delay. Edward evokes the same reactions about his journey to the capitol.
I’m supposed to point out the good parts of a book, then the places where the author needs work, then finish on a high note, I find myself unable to do this. Nothing in the book really hits a sour note. My reaction to reading this book is simple, When is the next one? Do yourself a favor, buy it, read it, enjoy the humor and the way he hits all the Noir buttons while describing the world of The Holy Roman Empire as it could have been.