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Cruel Zinc Melodies by Glen Cook
Review by Karen Burnham
Roc Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451461926
Date: 06 May 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

This book is the 12th book in Cook's Garrett Files series, and it continues in style. Fans will find all their favorite characters here. Garrett's been having easy times with his regular income from the major brewer in town. But now the brewer is expanding into theaters and there are problems with the construction. At first it looks like an extortion job, but what's with the gigantic insects? Looks like Garrett's going to have to get out there and earn his keep.

Cook finally lets us in on his secret for plotting Garrett books:

"A professional storyteller once clued me that the way to drag your audience along is to hit them with One Damned Thing After Another. And that's my life. The malevolent, sniggering, buggering toadlet gods tugging on the threads of my tale plot it by that very method."

So Garrett, Cook's long-suffering ex-Marine private investigator in a slightly skewed fantasy universe, is going to have one of those weeks. The story starts with rumors that the new theater (the World) is infested with bugs, and haunted. The bugs are huge, but they lead to a gaggle of slumming teenage sorcerers, so that's explained. However, the ghost issue remains unresolved.

Garrett easily stamps out an amateur extortion ring, chalks the ghosts up to over-imaginative lazy workers, and is ready to call it a day. However, the very upscale parents of the slumming teens show up and stir up more trouble, including more ghosts. Garrett's silent partner, the Dead Man, assures him that much more is going on underneath than appears on the surface.

In the meantime, the background world of TunFaire continues to evolve. A security-minded prince is helping to foster civil order, but the police arm and the intelligence arm don't get along, and the prince doesn't necessarily trust either of them. Garrett has to do some fancy footwork to stay out of the turf battles. Also, TunFaire is beginning to evolve technologically, thanks to brilliant inventor teen (and one of the slumming dabblers) Kip Prose. So far he's invented pencils ("writing sticks") and tricycles ("three wheels") among other things. One of Garrett's main goals is to get him away from bad influences and back to inventing profitable things.

Also, in a shocking turn of events, Garrett is beginning to show signs of incipient maturity. His relationship with Tinnie Tate has gotten to the point where they may both have to bow to the inevitable and consider marriage or call it quits. Nothing is resolved in this book, but the mere thought is one Garrett could not have entertained a few books ago. Likewise, he is sometimes able to hold his tongue and be political, when forced to, also not much in evidence in earlier books.

Most of the main cast is here: Singe the ratgirl, Dead Man, Dean, Playmate, Tinnie, Morley, Saucerhead, etc. The pixies are dormant and Belinda Contague makes only a walk-on appearance.

Cook does a phenomenal job of introducing all these characters and the salient points of their relationships with Garrett with the utmost brevity, which is particularly hard with 11 books of back story. While this could be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone, I always recommend starting from the beginning. All the books in this series are good, funny without always going for the belly laugh, always with a bit of an edge.

With many series the quality of the 12th book might not be up to previous standards, but that is not true here. Cook continues to keep things interesting. It may be One Damn Thing After Another, but it's never the Same Damn Thing Time and Again.

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