Hot Lead, Cold Iron by Ari Marmell (Titan, May 13th,2014)-Mick Oberon is a Chicago PI, but he’s no ordinary PI. His weapon of choice, in fact, is a magic wand (a Luchtaine & Goodfellow Model 1592, specifically), and he has a little magic of his own on top of that. In 1932 Chicago, one run by mobsters and their ilk, a little magic is a nice thing to have, but tussling with them isn’t Oberon’s favorite thing to do. However, his landlord is about to lose the building, and it’s the only place that Oberon has ever felt at home in the human world. Needless to say, he needs cash, fast. So, when the wife of one of Chicago’s major mobsters asks for his help, he’s hesitant to take the case, but when he finds out that they’re looking for their daughter, who was taken 16 years ago and replaced with a changeling (who is starting to look, and act, less and less like a human girl), he reluctantly agrees that he may be one of the few, er, people, that can help them. The problem is, he’ll have to go Sideways, into Elphame (the land of faerie, the Chicago Otherworld, you get the idea), in order to even begin to catch the trail of their real daughter, and he’s not exactly welcome. Getting help from the Seelie Court won’t be easy, but if anyone can do it, Oberon can, or so he hopes. He also hopes that the trail won’t lead to the Unseelie Court. Good thing luck is on Oberon’s side…most of the time.
Mick Oberon is my kind of hero, and Hot Lead, Cold Iron is my kind of urban fantasy. Oberon is very, very old, a little cranky, loves nothing more than a warm glass of milk, and sometimes takes payment in oddities rather than cash. He also has a rather soft heart, and helping not only the girl that was taken from her family, but the changeling that was put in her place, soon becomes more than a payday. Also, when it’s revealed what the Fae’s idea of a “changeling” includes, it’s pretty shocking. But I digress. Back to Oberon. He has luck on his side and is able to “manipulate” others’ luck, to fantastic effect. Needless to say, it’s handy in a fight. And he gets in plenty of fights, mostly with mob thugs. Luckily, it’s also very difficult to really hurt Oberon, and he heals pretty fast. That said, he ends up dealing with some very powerful, very evil magic, and that can hurt a fellow, even one as old and powerful as our Mick.
This book opens with fists swinging, and barely pauses to take a breath. I loved Marmell’s version of Faerie, and some of the contraptions that Oberon uses while there are very clever (love the Fae camera.) Another thing I really liked (and didn’t really think about until I finished), was the absence of any kind of romance. I don’t mind a little romance in my reading, I really don’t, but to read an urban fantasy where that’s not even hinted at is kind of a nice change of pace. With this book, I was too busy being immersed in Marmell’s fully realized Chicago of the 30s, and Oberon’s charming eccentricities to miss it. Fae magic, witchcraft, and even the hint of other supernatural creatures, combined with the 30s setting, give this book it’s considerable charm. Add a hero like Mick Oberon, and you’ve got a winner. This was lots of fun, and I’m hoping we’ll see more of Oberon soon!