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Strange Brew
Edited by P.N. Elrod
Cover Artist: Bruce Emmett
Review by Gayle Surrette
St. Martin's Griffin Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312383367
Date: 07 July 2009 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

There have always been short story anthologies of short stories, whether themed or not. I have several sitting on my shelf waiting for me to get to them. Lately, there's been an upsurge, or so it seems to me, of anthologies of the longer works that fall short of novel length. I love these because they're a great introduction to an author usually known for novels -- you get time to actually appreciate the authors style and characters yet don't have to commit to reading a full novel. In Strange Brew, editor P.N. Elrod has collected stories by Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Karen Chance, Charlaine Harris, Faith Hunter, Caitlin Kittridge, Jenna Maclaine, and one of Elrod's own stories. This give readers a chance to sample some of the upcoming and established fantasy authors currently writing today.

Strange Brew is a collection of nine fantasy tales--mostly urban fantasy set in a world not that much different from our own (no matter where it is in history), only with magic.

Seeing Eye by Patricia Briggs. While set in the same universe as her Mercedes Thompson series, this story is that of Moira Keller, a witch, who is approached by Tom Franklin, a werewolf and second in the Emerald City Pack. His brother, Jon, an undercover cop has been kidnapped by Samhain's Coven and he wants Moira's help to get him back. This story has enough twists and turns and hidden agendas to fill several novels but Briggs pulls it all off and ends with and interesting twist on the title.

Last Call by Jim Butcher. This is short Dresden story. If you've read any of Butcher's Dresden novels, you pretty much know what to expect. All Dresden wanted was a quiet sit-down with a bottle of beer at McAnally's pub and maybe a sandwich. What he got instead was a mystery and one that just might have a time limit, because it's possible if he doesn't solve this puzzle in time, all of Chicago could suffer -- and not just the magical community either. Some interesting moments as Dresden and Murphy race to save the city.

Death Warmed Over by Rachel Caine. I haven't read much by Rachel Caine mostly because when her books come into the office the reviewers pounce on them like literary catnip. So, I have to be content with her occasional story in a collection such as this. In this one, Holly Caldwell supplements her income as an accountant by raising the dead. The police department wants her to raise Andrew Toland again and if she won't do it they'll ask another necromancer to do it -- one that Holly knows mistreats the dead she raises. She's between a rock and a hard place but she agrees. It's then that the police tell her that someone is killing necromancers and she's on the list. Toland is expected to find the killer and take care of it. Nothing is as easy as it seems and this situation is no different because Toland isn't your average corpse and things get complicated.

Vegas Odds by Karen Chance. This story is set in the same world as Chance's Cassandra Palmer series. Accalia "Lia" De Croissets is awoken by a delivery. But as well as the lovely flowers, the delivery guy is trying to kill her--and he's not alone. It seems some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed, even if your boyfriend the werewolf shows up with coffee and pastry -- there's no time to eat them if they want to escape to live another day. The trick is to stop the killers but not kill them, because Lia needs information, like why they're trying to kill her. This is a tense page turner of a story with lots of near misses and an ending that shows that some days it does pay to be paranoid. Hecate's Golden Eye by P.N. Elrod. Vampire PI Jack Fleming and his partner Charles Escott take on a case in Chicago, June 1937. It should be a simple case to swap a fake necklace for the real one, which would really be getting the real one back to the person who owned it and away from the person who originally stole it. Simple right. But then it wouldn't be a good story if it was, and P.N. Elrod knows how to tell a good story. From first to last, this is classic Jack Fleming and if you're not sure what that means but you enjoy this story, pick up one of the novels.

Bacon by Charlaine Harris. Dahlia Lynley-Chivers, vampire and recent widow, wants revenge on the person or werewolves who set her husband up to be killed. Using her contacts she's found Kathy Aenidis, a witch of sufficient power to help her. However, it seems that there's more going on under the surface than simple revenge. Harris proves she can get very dark indeed and, in fact, can manage to tell a straight forward story and still pulls the wool over the readers' eyes.

Signatures of the Dead by Faith Hunter. While Jane Yellowrock has a part in this story, she's one of the side characters this time. Vampires have been killing indiscriminately in the area and Jane and Brax need help. Molly and Evan live in the area and it's in their best interest to help find these rogues. The problem with finding spells it that sometimes the found can in their turn find you. It becomes a race whether they can catch and kill the rogues before the rogues can wipe out their family. Again a definite page turner as you try to keep up with the action.

Ginger by Caitlin Kittredge. Set in Nocturne City, Sunny Swann and Luna Wilder find themselves confused when a high-profile case seems to be going nowhere. They learn that there's something very strange going on and it's not just the usual magical spell casting. Sunny has to find enough courage to stand alone against the dark on this case.

Dark Sins by Jenna Maclaine. Cin is a vampire and a witch and she's on vacation with her partner Michael and their working partners Justine and Devlin. It's Venice 1818 and they've been trapped by a man who wants revenge--not on them, but on someone else. Caught in this convoluted plan for revenge, Cin must extricate her friends, but her witchcraft has never worked as it should and she's desperate to find a way to free herself and her friends. Maclaine manages to pull you into the story quickly and keep you reading even when you know there's going to be a rabbit and a hat at any moment to save the day. To keep a reader involved and reading even when they know what's going to happen is truly a feat of writing worth reading.

See for yourself. This is a volume that gives you a taste of several author's novel universes and just maybe you'll find an author you'll want to put on your to-be-read list.

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