il tempo si è fermato by Alessandro Prada, from Flickr under the Creative Commons 2.0 licensed attribution
A Kiss Before the Apocalypse by Thomas Sniegoski, Roc trade paperback 2008.
Many detective stories open with the PI involved with surveillance on a possibly straying husband, and Remy is hanging out watching a seedy motel while his target goes in with his persaonal secretary. Gunshots ring out from the cheap motel, but is it jealous spouse or rival? Remy charges in, and his subject is midway through murder-suicide, because the straying husband has seen in visions just how close the end of the world really is.
And then the killer sees Remy, sees Remy for what he really is, an angel. Remy isn’t your garbed in glory angel, he’s a married private eye with a taste for Chandler and a dog named Marlowe. His main preoccupation is that wife is in hospice and he’s having trouble saying goodbye.
The first major harbinger of the apocalypse is that the husband and the secretary don’t die. And more people don’t die who should have. (I really don’t want to think about the trauma and cost for all the people left behind) Then like the classic noir, forces from all sides want the threaten Remy or try to coopt him for their own causes. Like the classic PIs, it’s not easy sunshine and sparkly unicorns and Remy gets beat on, but the strongest feels are for Madeline and Marlow’s scenes away from the major confrontations.
I have a fondness for cross-genre science-fiction or fantasy mysteries. I read and reread the Lord Darcy and R. Daneel Olivaw stories over and over. Other stories may have a genre feel even if they weren’t cross marked. The angel romances have their own issues. But this isn’t a romance, and it’s not a redo of “Death Takes a Holiday.” This gives a thought to what happens when Mr Black has gone AWOL. It’s not anything that simple and the final race feels a little like the end of Raiders with the race to stop the Apocalypse.
One of the deeper mysteries is why Remy is living as a mortal when he’s not really human. I’m not sure he’s quite sure, al he knows is what triggered his decision and he tried hard not to think about it, despite all the various angels and demons who mess with his life during the tale. I have my own suppositions that he’s on a high moral path not in spite of his doubt and abandoned position, but because of them. Learning that the author had been involved in the old Angel series was not a surprise. The sometimes too heavy melodrama in that world is handled with a lighter touch. Too much angst becomes whining, and Remy’s human lofe isn’t that bad.
One of the more notable parts are how Remy relates to mortals in his life. The scenes with Madeline were very painful and touching. Death is looming issue for them and the lack of dying is not really the good thing it might appear to be. I wish we had seen more story with her in her prime. Marlowe is so very much a dog and not a fantasy magic one. The dog has his ‘squirrel’ moments. Now the mystery wasn’t that fair, but it was the start of a series, so that is a bit to be expected. But the way the mystery and Remy’s personal life fit together is very well done. Sooner or later we all have to relate with the fear and denial when someone is dying, but the world won’t let you stop to be with them. That made for a grounded and real feeling fantasy with more depth than most mysteries I’ve read in a long while.
Rating 4.5 out of five stars