Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives
Edited by Justin Gustaninis
Cover Artist: Robert Nixon
Review by Gayle Surrette
EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781894063487
Date: 01 March 2011 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives is an anthology of short stories featuring occult detectives that populate many of the urban fantasy series of our time. While the major characters are detectives, only two of the stories in the collection are actually mysteries that require solving. The rest are more here's the situation, now we must defeat the bad guy and win the fight -- so more action adventure than sleuthing.
The first story in the anthology is "Little Better than a Beast" by T.A. Pratt. Marla Mason finds herself facing a beast from the early days of Felport, one that it seems lived only to kill and destroy. Now it is Marla's problem and she needs to solve it quickly. Things have changed since the beast disappeared. This one had a very satisfactory ending -- at least for this reader.
"Dusted" by Laura Anne Gilman is a Cosa Nostradamus story. Daniel Hendrickson has a new case -- a missing teenager who seems to have just disappeared. Her parents are frantic. This isn't your normal missing teen when there's magic and fatae living unnoticed along side the reality we see. Hendrickson must decide if two wrongs can make it right.
Julie Kenner's Kate Connor is front and center in "The Demon You Know". Some teenagers just listen to their parents, but if they did so in a story then it would probably be a fantasy, but it wouldn't be this story. Kate's daughter, Allie, tends to learn things the hard way. Some lessons can be very hard indeed and this story doesn't make the learning easy either.
"The Spirit of the Thing" by Simon R. Green, John Taylor is hired by the owner of the Jolly Cripple bar to find out who is watering down his booze. Well John's specialty is finding things and people, but one thing leads to another for a nice little tale of what can happen when you cross someone you should know better than to poke with a stick.
Lilith Saintcrow's "Holding the Line" is definitely noir. Jill Kismet is called by Slade, another Hunter, to come to his city to help him. Once there, she finds blood and a missing Slade. What she has to do to find her friend shakes her belief in herself but makes for a very thought provoking story.
In "Defining Shadows" by Carrie Vaughn, Jessi Hardin is a detective heading up the Denver police's new paranormal unit -- she is the unit actually. She needs to find a killer, but law and order hasn't yet dealt with determining just who is the victim and who is the criminal once you admit werewolves and vampires exist. This was very much a police procedural in a department where change is coming and along with all the problems that entails.
Justin Gustainis' story "Deal Breaker" has a nervous man asking Quincey Morris to help him get out of his deal with the devil. This is one where we think we know what's going to happen but do we really? You'll have to read the story to see just how predictable or unpredictable it is.
"See Me" by Tanya Huff is a Smoke and Shadows story. Tony Foster works as a second assistant director on Darkest Night, a vampire TV show in Vancouver. When he hears a scream and finds a hooker standing over the body of an elderly man, his life takes a turn for the weird, especially since his partner of two years seems to be very interested in the young woman's welfare. This is a nice little piece about expectations and friendships.
Chris Marie Green's story, "Soul Stains", deals with the aftermath of killing a master vampire. Just what happens to the vampires that are not turned, once again, to humans without the looks, or physical powers they are used to. This is just one story of one soul returned to what she once was but now much, much older.
"Under the Hill and Far Away" by Caitlin Kittredge is a short story in her Black London series. Pete Cadecott is asked to solve a murder in the Seelie Court. This was an old fashioned detective, asking questions of the family, and pulling them all together for the unveiling of the killer. One of the major clues was a bit hidden from the reader but nonetheless a satisfying mystery.
Tony Giodone been asked by his old employer, Carmine Leonoe, to help him in "An Ace In The Hole" by C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp. The problem is that Carmine is lying about something or everything. Before Tony can learn what the lie is about, he's got to find something that he doesn't know about or where it is. How it plays out makes for an exciting story.
"Hell Bound" by Jackie Kessler is about the mission the succubus Jezebel is sent on, to kill a magician and bring his soul back to Hell. An interesting take on the political workings of the underworld.
In C.J. Henderson's "Impossible Love", Piers Knight has come up with plan to cure his friend Albert Harper's daughter, Debbie. Debbie is the center of Harper's life as he cares for her every need -- it's a full time job. This cure could kill Debbie or Harper. Just how much does he love his daughter? How much would he dare to help her.
"Running Wild" by Rachel Caine is a short story about Cassiel, who is feeling a bit disconnected from the Earth. However, she doesn't want to just enjoy the scenery so she takes a hike where several women are missing and two men have been killed. Luis decides to follow her -- just in case. Of course, the "in case" happens and we've got an exciting tale of survival against great odds.
Every story in this collection is interesting, while some people will like some and some will like others. That's the joy of anthology -- there will be something for everyone.