Night Shift - Lilith Saintcrow

"Cities need people like us, those who go after things the cops can’t catch and keep the streets from boiling over. We handle nonstandard exorcisms, Traders, hellbreed, rogue Weres, scurf, Sorrows, Middle Way adepts . . . all the fun the nightside can come up with."

 

2.5 stars

 

Jill Kismet is a Hunter and if you've ever read an urban fantasy before I'm sure you can guess what that title implies, my quote notwithstanding. She's a very typical bad ass female lead with a enough back-story to create a bit of filler-drama. Her attitude strikes me as a Kate Daniels wannabe, but she feels/acts more like a Chess Putnam.

 

"A dry smell, blazing with heat and spoiled musk, like matted fur and unhealthy dandruff-clotted skin."

 

Gritty and dark, the city she works is layered in what seems like a blanket of filth and hell spawn. Although this is never directly addressed, Kiss smells everything and it seems to be her main mode of deciphering a situation. I've come to this conclusion because nearly every page describes a scent, and most of it is gory and unpleasant. This city might be perfectly lovely but if it is, I've been led astray. The whole olfactory overload thing is a style choice that I had a hard time getting on board with - half the time wondering what the point was - but eventually I was able to pass over those instances without wondering and continue. Kiss smells a lot of stuff, it's part of her 'hell power'.

 

Kiss also fights a lot of stuff with weapons I don't understand and with injuries that appear without warning. Unless she was thrown against a wall, I could not follow the fighting. She has a whip, there is some lightening that she may be producing or fire or something, and she uses a special sword that belonged to her late-teacher/lover/father figure.

 

"...I still couldn’t decide if I had been too late because of some lingering traces of trust and respect for Mikhail keeping me too far back when I followed him that night, or if I had hung back because some part of me knew something was going to happen—and wanted to punish him for betraying me, not as a teacher or as a father, but as a lover."

 

That's right - she said teacher/lover/father. Jill's filler drama is darker than some and we relive her back story in a smattering of dreams and distracted moments. She's grieving the loss of Mikhail and while the story of his death unfolds finding it's place in the present of the story we're reading, I kept wondering if he was going to resurrect from the grave or something since she dwelled on it so often. This was also a style choice that drove me a little batty. I could have used with a little more meat to the here and now and less of the heartbreaking past that, if I may, is a bit icky.

 

"Smelled the musk of a male Were and the smell of food, mixing together. Good smells, both of them, and a heady pairing."

 

And while Kiss is dealing with all this backstory, she also has to deal with a demented hell-spawn ringleader who is trying to dismantle her sanity and (to strike a balance, I'm sure) a handsome, soft spoken Were-cat who (for reasons unknown) endeavors to take care of a messy Jill, the Hunter. All the while, she's hunting a rogue Were with a partner from hell as they cut a bloody path across the city. The body count piles up.

 

And when the body count piles up, so does the accompanying odors and gore. What the story lacks in imagination it makes up for it in dripping body parts.

 

So, despite the things that drove me crazy and the rinse-repeat nature of some urban fantasy tropes, I still think I'm going to read the next book in the series. Halfway through I was not planning on it, but there was something very enticing about the end that makes me want to come back for more.

 

"The blankets were pulled up on his chest, and I smelled the sharpness of urine."

 

Just, hopefully with less urine smell.

 

Or desiccated flesh. Or thunderous odor of exotic hellbreed taint (don't ask me!).