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Book Review: The Diabolist by Layton Green (Series, #3)

September 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Shadow of a man walking down an alley lit in blue light.Summary:
Dominic Gray, ex-government worker, ex-military, and once professional jiu-jitsu fighter, is seeing a lull in his work as assistant to Professor Viktor Radek on private detective cases involving religious mysteries and the occult.  He’s set up shop in New York City, teaching jiu-jitsu to inner-city youth.  But when a high-ranking Satanist is murdered in front of his entire congregation by a mysterious figure who sets him on fire at a distance and then disappears himself, Dominic is quickly pulled into a new case with Viktor.  High-ranking Satanists worldwide keep dying in the same, or similar, mysterious ways, and the odd thing is, it’s not the Christians doing it.

Review:
I’ve enjoyed this series from the very beginning.  The combination of religious studies, private detectives, and international intrigue suck me in every time.  This latest entry in the series does not fail to deliver, bringing once again the perfect combination of religious philosophy, mystery, and private detective intrigue.

This entry brings us back to the more mystical origins of the series.  Rather than biomedicine as in the second book, what’s involved here is ancient occultism and what may or may not be magic tricks. I was happy to see this occult mysticism represented in the developed world this time, pointing out that it’s not just surviving in developing countries in modern times.  The actual religion of Satanism is well explained and given room for both good-hearted followers and evil fanatics, just as may be seen in every religion.  Green keeps an even hand when writing about religion, even when writing about Satanism, and that’s to be commended.  A drop of mysticism is provided, and it’s left up to the reader to decide if it was science or magic ultimately responsible for the mysterious occurrences, which is ideal for this type of book.

The entwining of Viktor’s backstory with the mystery was well-done, and it was certainly time for the reader to learn more about Viktor.  Unfortunately, I must say that Viktor’s backstory made me dislike him more than I had previously, but it certainly also helps form him into a more well-rounded character.  There’s a delightful femme fatale, enshrouded in both beauty and mystery.  Her ending, however, did feel a bit abrupt.  Dominic goes very quickly from one opinion of her to another, and not enough known, factual information is provided for the reader to keep up with this.  On the other hand, the ending was surprising and also made logical sense, and it also put the main characters in a frightful level of mortal danger.  Exactly the kind of ending one looks for in this type of book.

Overall, the third entry in the series continues to deliver the private detective exploration of moral and mystical gray areas.  Those who enjoyed the first entry in the series more than the second will be happy to see the return to the mysticism found in the first book.  Those who enjoyed the science of the second will be glad to see the science of magic covered extensively in this entry.  Recommended to fans of the series to pick it up as soon as possible.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

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Previous Books in Series:
The Summoner, review
The Egyptian, review

Book Review: The Egyptian by Layton Green (Series, #2)

August 27, 2011 1 comment

Egyptian sculpture holding a green globe.Summary:
Dominic Grey, previously a government worker and before that a champion jiu-jitsu fighter, is now working for Professor Viktor Radek on private detective cases frequently involving religious mysteries and the occult.  His first case seems straight-forward enough–retrieve a vial stolen from a biomedical company in Egypt.  But there’s more to this biomedical company than meets the eye, and Dominic soon finds himself racing around the globe from New Jersey to Bulgaria to Cairo in an attempt to unravel a mystery involving what just might be the elixir of life.

Review:
This follow-up to The Summoner (review) lives up to the excitement and global noir feel of the original without retracing the same steps.  This holds promise for the series as a whole as one issue in writing serial detective novels is keeping everything fresh for the reader.

Green has either traveled the world extensively or done a ton of research, as his writing shows an intimate knowledge of the various areas of the world Dominic’s work takes him that is only evidenced by those who have been there.  It is easy to tell when a writer intimately knows the setting they are speaking of, and this is clear in Green’s work.  This lends an extra edge of excitement to the work.

Dominic’s character develops at a believable rate in this entry of the series.  Who he is at the core is still the same, but his work and his encounters with a variety of people lead him to question himself, his life, and his intentions.  I also appreciated that instead of pulling a 007 and moving on to the next woman without thinking much of his love interest from the first book, Nya, Dominic struggles with his emotions about the women he sleeps with.  He is certainly no saint when it comes to the opposite sex, but the way he deals with women strikes a believable middle.

Unfortunately, Viktor does not feature as prominently this time around, and he also appears to be on a bit of a downward slope in his fondness for absinthe.  I hope his character will be addressed more fully in the next entry in the series.

Two of the new characters added this time around are particularly enjoyable–Veronica (the love interest) and Jax (an international mercenary).  I actually fell for Jax much harder than I’ve fallen for Dominic.  He is from small town America with no ties to family, completely confident in the most rural corners of the world.  He’s brassy, witty, and clearly has a bit of a good streak buried in him somewhere.  I think both the ladies and the men reading the series will enjoy his presence, and I hope he’ll pop up in later entries (or even get his own spin-off series).  Veronica is enjoyable for different reasons.  She’s a career woman starting to question where her life is heading and falls for the guy she can’t have.  It may seem cliche, but that sort of thing happens all the time in real life.  She’s sympathetic without being pathetic.  Also, personally, I found her a lot more enjoyable than Nya.  She’s more assertive with Dominic; let’s just leave it at that. 😉

The writing style itself still struggles in places on the sentence level.  Sometimes Green tries too hard to sound philosophical, and it comes across as forced.  Similarly, some paragraphs lean a bit too heavily on showing, not telling.  The instances of this occurring are fewer than in the previous book, though, and it is obvious that Green is working hard on improving his craft.  Personally, I did not find that these instances distracted me from the exciting plot at all.

Overall, The Egyptian is a fast-paced, unpredictable detective mystery, perfect for those looking for a light-weight, page-turner for their evenings or the beach.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Free kindle copy from the author in exchange for review

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Note:  The Egyptian and The Summoner are on sale for 99 cents for this release weekend only (August 27th and 28th)

Previous Books in Series:
The Summoner
, review

Book Review: The Summoner by Layton Green (Series, #1)

April 27, 2011 3 comments

Shadow of a man on a brown background.Summary:
Dominic Grey is a rogue US government agent currently assigned to Zimbabwe when a friend of the US Ambassador disappears in the middle of a tribal religious ceremony.  Grey finds himself investigating the disappearance under the watchful eye of the beautiful Zimbabwean government official, Nya and with the aid of a religious studies professor aka cult-buster, Viktor.  The investigation soon leads them deep into the dark world of Juju–the religion from which Voodoo originates–not to mention the seedy underbelly of Harare.

Review:
Take Raymond Chandler, transplant him to Africa, update mores to modern liberal ones, toss in some African Juju, and you have Green’s first entry in the Dominic Grey series.  If that combination doesn’t make detective mystery fans sit up and say “yes please,” then I don’t know what will.

Dominic is the classic wounded and dark but ultimately has a heart of gold detective hero.  He broods.  He has far more energy than is logical.  He is missing the classic addiction to alcohol of yore, but the side-kick Viktor has that (to absinthe no less), so that is easily forgiven.  His backstory is unique, yet relatable, plus there’s Japan and jiujitsu tossed in, which is never a minus.

The love interest is, refreshingly, a bi-racial, self-reliant woman with her own issues and priorities.  She is smart, yet not lacking in vulnerabilities.  Nya was a refreshing depiction of a female character in a detective mystery, and seeing an inter-racial relationship develop in a book that is not a romance novel was fresh and exciting.

The plot is complex and actually fairly terrifying, even for this hardened horror fan.  I did figure it out before it was revealed, but only just barely.  I did not, however, predict the ending, which is a definite plus.  Those who like some horror and torture in their mysteries will certainly enjoy the plot.

The one draw-back is that Green’s writing struggles a bit on the sentence level.  Sometimes the sentences are too simplistic, or he tells the reader a bit too much instead of showing.  There are also times when his descriptors are a bit off.  For instance, at one point the reader is told that the room smells of  vivisection.  Most readers do not know what vivisection smells like (thank goodness), so that kind of leaves a blank for the scent in the room.  Instead, Green could have said something like, “The room smelled of vivisection–a dark musk mixed with the unmistakable scent of blood.”  These issues are less of a flaw than weak characterization or bad plot, though, and I have no doubt that Green’s writing on the sentence level will improve with time and exposure.

Overall, this is an excellent first foray into the world of modern detective mysteries.  Grey is an intriguing main character, the plots are unique and modern, and I’m already anticipating the next entrance in the series.  I highly recommend it to fans of Raymond Chandler and detective mysteries in general.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Free kindle copy from the author in exchange for review

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