In Indigo, Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Kelley Armstrong, Jonathan Maberry, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, Cherie Priest, James Moore, and Mark Morris join forces to bring you a crime-solving novel like you’ve never read before.
A mosaic novel—much like its namesake in the visual arts—is a novel in fragments, requiring several authors to contribute a chapter each in order to build a primarily linear narrative whole. More complex novels of this type (with my personal favorite so far being George R. R. Martin’s Fort Freak) also present each chapter from the viewpoint of different characters, so you get a pretty cool Rashomon-type story that builds to a thrilling ending.
This very same complexity can be daunting, however, for newcomers to the genre. Enter Charlaine Harris’s Indigo, which is the perfect starting point for those wanting to dip their toes into mosaic novels. Every chapter—while written by a different acclaimed author—is set firmly from the point of view of Nora Hesper, the journalist who spends her nights fighting crime as the shadow-manipulating vigilante named Indigo. As a teenager, she lost her parents in a senseless act of violence; now, as an adult, she feels compelled to save other children from a similar or even more grisly fate.
When the ritually mutilated body of a young girl named Maidali is found in Kingsbridge, Nora knows that this is the work of her arch-enemies: members of the murderous cult known as the Children Of Phonos. Once night falls, she utilizes her powers in the course of her investigations to travel undetected:
Three doors down from her apartment, in a deep patch of shadow where the wan yellow streetlights could not reach, she inhaled a cleansing breath and reached out her hands to summon the darkness. It wrapped itself around her, cleaving to her body and flowing outward, a cloak of shadows. To the naked eye it would have looked like an actual cloak, woven of fabric the color of night. Her face was hidden by a hood, and the darkness moved to keep her features obscured.
With a gesture she summoned the shadows closer and fed them so they blotted out all the light around her and wrapped her in a dusky cocoon. An image formed in her mind, a memory from that morning—the stairs where Maidali’s body had been found, where the streetlamps were always broken. She reached out into the shadows and then stepped through…
…and emerged on that staircase in Kingsbridge.
In addition to stepping through shadows and obscuring herself, Nora can also summon weapons made out of solidified shadow. She puts these to good use against the Children Of Phonos, slaughtering cultists in the action-packed sequences that fill many of Indigo’s chapters. But while she knows she’s doing the right thing, she doesn’t feel as if she’s necessarily doing the best thing. While her friend with benefits—fellow journalist Sam Loh, who is unaware of her secret identity—writes glowing pieces about Indigo’s crime-solving and vigilante justice, Nora keeps a more sober perspective:
If she felt a swelling of pride or satisfaction, she tamped it down quickly. Murder was nothing to celebrate, no matter how deserving the victims. [S]he held on to the memories of her violence, of her victims’ blood gushing over her hands, the light dying in their eyes as her shadows danced around her in glee. She was Indigo and Indigo was her, but Nora refused to allow murder to feel ordinary.
Because sometimes the shadows were malevolent. Sometimes Indigo thought they hid something deeper and darker. She had always been able to control this malevolence, drive it down with her own will and lock it away in the deeper, more complete darkness from which it seemed to originate, a place marked not only by an absence of light but by some heavier presence, an anti-place where darkness was the norm. But a few times lately she’d felt this separate presence rising, rebelling against her efforts to contain it.
The gradual strengthening of this separate presence is what causes Nora to start examining her powers and her past more critically, as she begins to realize that her secret identity is not the only thing she’s been hiding in the dark. As the reality she’s so carefully built over the course of years begins to unravel, Nora discovers the truth about what she can do and why, even as murderous cultists dog her every step.
Indigo is a slam-bang superhero novel, very much reminiscent of comic books like The Hood and Cloak and Dagger, though purely in prose form. The action never lets up as Nora races to find the truth and hopefully save not only her own life but the lives of the cult’s next intended victims.
There are as many twists and turns as a rollercoaster, and each acclaimed author (the list is a veritable who’s who of urban fantasy with Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Kelley Armstrong, Jonathan Maberry, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, Cherie Priest, James A. Moore, and Mark Morris) puts his or her own stamp on the story in the chapters they’ve written, mixing action with introspection for a highly accessible mosaic novel.
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
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