Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall is the first book in the Kate Kane: Paranormal Investigator romantic suspense noir series (available December 16, 2013).
My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.
It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.
I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.
Iron and Velvet by Alexis Hall livens its contemporary urban fantasy setting with a strong noir voice. Detective Kate Kane, the first-person narrator, could easily slide into a black-and-white movie and begin flirting with Lauren Bacall, so long as a few vampires and fae and werewolves also showed up. The overall tone is less dark than classic noir novels, such as those by Raymond Chandler, but Kate still shares a number of characteristics with those detectives, including drinking and women.
I woke to the taste of stale whiskey and the smell of stale cigarettes. Rolling over, I found a picture on the pillow—Patrick had been drawing me again. I stared into the face of the girl I used to be: someone young enough, pretty enough, and stupid enough to find that shit romantic. I’d dated a vampire when I was seventeen. It was a mistake.
…I couldn’t be arsed to shower, so I threw on what had been yesterday’s clothes yesterday and made myself a breakfast of reheated coffee and ibuprofen. The post was mainly bills. All right, entirely bills.
Though there are some entertainingly gruesome monsters and murders, and a fair amount of political shenanigans among the supernatural beings and magic users, my favorite thing about the novel was Kate’s wry narration and her sarcastic punchlines, in particular the way she is thoroughly unimpressed by supernatural beings. This adds a great deal to the humor in the novel. She has good reason, since she is not entirely human, herself.
It’s weird to think of your parents having a life but my Dad was once the mortal consort of the Queen of the Wild Hunt. And by consort I mean . . . yeah. Jenny—my step-mum—eventually got him out but the Queen kept his eyes. They found me on the doorstep a few months later wrapped in a wolfskin, in a basket made of briars. An honest-to-God faery princess. But since my mother’s the immortal embodiment of an abstract concept, it’s not like I’m going to inherit a magical kingdom any time soon. And she never showed up at parent-teacher night.
Aside from the mystery plot, Kate’s life is complicated by, of course, a (literal) femme fatale, vampire prince Julian Saint-Germain, who initially hires her to solve the mystery of a dead body outside one of the clubs she owns.
“Do you actually need a PI?”
She moved back and ran a hand through her hair, which was short and dark and looked like it would be soft as feathers beneath my fingers. Which I wasn’t thinking. Not at all.
“You distracted me,” she complained, as though it was somehow my fault that she’d jumped all over me. “There’s a dead body in the alley outside.”
“And it just slipped your mind?”
“No, I just decided to seduce you first.”
“He’s dead, he’s not going anywhere.”
“Yes, but I’m better in bed.” She waggled her eyebrows.
Julian isn’t the only woman to have an interest in Kate outside of her duties, but that isn’t always to her benefit, and it’s sometimes difficult to tell what’s political and what isn’t. Kate hates getting involved in politics, but like every noir detective, it’s inevitable that she’ll become entangled. In this case, her instant physical attraction to Julian draws her deeper into the mess that ensues from a murder that is possibly personally, possibly politically motivated. Then everything is complicated further when one of Kate’s former girlfriends turns out to be involved. The clashes between the various types of supernatural beings and magic-using humans yield a whole range of additional plot tension to the initial murder. With so many threads, it’s inevitable that a few are left to fray loose, and hopefully, that means more adventures for Kate Kane in the future.
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Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. She also reads a lot. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.