I’m not normally a big fan of mystery novels, but my mother sure was. If it had a detective, an unsolved murder and a rogue’s gallery of suspects, she had read it. Consequently, our house was full of paperback mysteries as well as other literature; naturally, being the sort of child who would read whatever was around, including Dante’s Inferno at the age of eleven, I read some of them. They were there. I read from the beginning of the genre…Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and (of course) Edgar Allen Poe…and worked my way through a fair amount of Agatha Christie. I saw a production of The Mousetrap in London twenty years ago.
What I am saying is, you could call me an educated outsider with regard to the genre. I’ve read the classics and not much else. I like to think that makes me an ideal reader…I know enough about mysteries to know how they work, and yet I’m not jaded. I pick up a book and don’t have a lot of rigid expectations about what I do and don’t like.
I did, on the other hand, live in Atlanta for fifteen years. And I grew up in the South. I do have some strong opinions about that. If you pick Atlanta or Georgia as “local color” without knowing the place…I’m sorry, no matter how much I otherwise like the work, it will annoy me and I will bring it up every time the book is mentioned. I’m looking at you, Neil Gaiman.
Fortunately, Tina does no such thing. She grew up here too, and she nails Atlanta as a setting…the landscape, the many Peachtrees, the shiny buildings and the constant construction, and also the absurdities of the place. Christian conservative state politics and more strippers per capita than any other city in America; that’s Atlanta for you. She also captures the surreality sometimes produced by rapid social change: Can a young woman whose for-real best friend from high school is a gay black man find herself the owner by inheritance of a Confederate-themed gun shop? Oh, yes.
And that brings us to the characters. Tai Randolph, the narrator, is snarky and funny; she notices the absurdities in her world (including her sudden and shocking introduction to the book title’s “dangerous edge”) and comments on them. She also bulls her way through, however she must…a trait with which I empathize. Her sometime-antagonist and developing love interest is a fascinating character: GQ-perfect, a slick, Ferrari-driving, Special Ops-trained Ice Man with real-life super-powers (he can tell when people are lying) and a tragic past. Yet he is saved from becoming a cliché or annoyingly ubermenschy by an inversion of the archetype so clever I won’t spoil the effect by explaining it here. Let’s just say that as a writer I admire the creation of the character, and as a reader I love the bits with him in them.
The “Pagan” quotient is low, but one of the minor characters is a Tarot-reading massage therapist whom I could have easily met in my days as a professional psychic, though her beat is a lot more plush and moneyed than my grungy, touristy, downtown Underground Atlanta clientele. I knew people like her, though; an Ishtar priestess who taught sacred dance and took massage clients in her incense-and-candle-filled studio, and a former Coca Cola executive who provided “intuitive counseling” from an office in Buckhead. For anyone who has run in Pagan circles long enough, Gabriella is wholly believable, and an example of how even the minor characters in this novel have roundedness and depth.
The plot is satisfyingly page-turning and logical enough to be cohesive while complex enough that you don’t see it all coming. I sat in my car and read it in the bookstore parking lot, if you must know. If that sounds like a good time to you (it does to me), go hence and get thee a copy.Tweet