Reviewed by Sarina
TITLE: Urban Shaman
AUTHOR: Lyn Gala
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 270 pages
RELEASE DATE: April 12, 2010
New York City cop Miguel Rassin’s life is going downhill fast. He’s got a spotty record from the Army, a one-night stand who won’t go away, and a flock of reporters trying to crucify him for shooting a civilian waving a toy pistol. Now kids are turning up missing in the Bronx, and he’s partnered with by-the-book Detective Rob Jackson, a man with problems of his own. Their first suspect is a local shaman, Nikolai Adelman, who is either the strangest holy man ever or a con working his own angle. Miguel’s trying to navigate a baffling case that has more questions than answers, caught between a surprising physical desire for Nikolai and his new partner’s suspicions about a shaman who claims supernatural forces are at work. Miguel has always tried to avoid relationships out of guilt and fear, but Nikolai sees the darkness in Miguel’s heart—and the fortitude Miguel has hidden deep inside, a strength that will help him solve the case and reclaim his life.
Miguel Rassin has had it rough; from growing up with an emotionally distant mother to a betrayal and medical discharge from the military to his latest problem: being vilified by the press over the shooting of a civilian. When the call comes in about missing child things go from bad to worse, especially when it turns out there isn’t just one missing child but seven. With a partner more likely to push him under the bus than save him from it and a man claiming to be a Shaman pushing all of his buttons, things look like they’re going to get a lot worse for Miguel before they get better.
While I’ve loved everything else I’ve read by this author so far, this one is apparently the exception to the rule. The book, from the working of the case to the urban fantasy elements, wasn’t what I was expecting at all and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it didn’t grab me in any meaningful way either. I found the shamanistic elements unique and interesting but all the Yiddish dialogue, while certainly something I’ve not seen before, was kind of distracting after a while and detracted from the story. (At least for me.) I liked all of the ethnicities featured in the book, quite a bit actually, and I found the various characters to be quite engaging but the case itself seemed to suffer due to the focus on Nikolai and his role as a Shaman. I was really interested in the connection between him and Miguel, especially in his role as a Guardian, but it was disappointing that I never got to see that explored more. The ending of the book also felt a bit incomplete to me; the entire thing was pretty bittersweet and while there is a resolution of sorts, I didn’t finish the book feeling satisfied with what I’d just read. I find myself sorely in need of an epilogue and without it I just feel like something is missing. The writing was great and I loved the creativity that went into the characters and their backgrounds but the draw of the book for me was the case and it just wasn’t represented as well as I would’ve liked. I’ll probably read this one again at some point in the future but I won’t be in any hurry to.