Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Something Like Magic
AUTHOR: Max C. Payne
PUBLISHER: Less Than Three Press
LENGTH: 131 pages
RELEASE DATE: February 20, 2017
John Cunningham is a private investigator looking into the disappearance of his friend’s son, but he hits a roadblock because there’s no evidence and the perpetrators are thought to have used magic. For assistance, he’s pointed to magical consultant Orion Kensington, and asks for his help despite John’s bad history with magic and reluctance to have anything to do with it.
But as the case grows more dangerous, and his unexpected attraction to Orion stronger, John soon realizes it’s his own reluctance and hesitation that might get them killed long before magic and demons do it.
John Cunningham, private detective, has gone out of his way to avoid magic whenever is possible. But when the son of a close friend is attacked by magical means, and the police have all but given up finding the teenager, John puts aside his dislike–mostly–and asks a magical consultant to help him. John is totally unprepared for Orion Kensington, though. Beside the fact that the man has magic–and so makes John twitchy from the very first meeting–Orion, with his fancy suits, top hat, and cane is nothing like John supposed he would be. And as they follow the clues deeper, and John is dragged further into a world of magic and demons, John becomes more and more convinced that whatever the outcome, he will never be the same. Whether that is for good or for ill, he has yet to decide.
First off, my overall impression after finishing this story is that I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it wasn’t sold thru the blurb as a mystery story. Yes there is an element of mystery to it–with John and Ori trying to find the boy–but it felt like nearly half, if not more, of the story was devoted to other things and it left me a bit disappointed. The writing wasn’t bad, and I found the characters interesting, but let’s face it, when it came down to the line, the mystery was seriously lacking. It made the plot seem a bit rudderless. A lot of the “detecting” goes on off-screen, which created this sense that I was reading the story from the wrong pov.
For 80% of this book we get the story from John’s pov. And, well, he doesn’t do a whole lot. Ori is by far the most interesting character, who does a majority of the action and discovery in this story–and yet for most of it he is hidden in the background while we are standing over with John, watching what is going on from just far enough away to see that something is going on, but unsure of what it is and how it impacts the story. When we finally get Ori’s pov, it is at the 70% mark, and the sudden shift from what had been exclusively John’s story, was abrupt and a bit unsettling. Yes, I wanted to see what was behind all of Ori’s strangeness, but to have it happen so late in the book felt odd.
This book was another of those novel-trapped-in-a-short-story type books. There was a lot there, just waiting to be covered, it felt like, but because of the page constraints a lot of it either got glossed over or rushed through. The way that magic operates in this book was really great (and kudos for not playing into that whole “magic and technology can’t coexist peacefully” trope), but I wanted more about the supernatural aspects here. Especially the demons and the role they play in all this. I will say that I love the thing that happens with Ori at the climax–horrible person that I am I probably would have loved to have that part play out over several scenes so we can really get down and gritty in it–and all that emotion was great. I just wanted more.
Which is the overreaching theme of my take away from this story. This is very much a story that could have been great if further expanded. More trade-offs of pov throughout the whole story so that we get a better grounding for both the characters and the mystery would have helped greatly. And it would have also beefed up the connection between the two character which was barely hanging on there by a thread.
We could lose all the talk about clothes, though. That just weighed down the story by a good (or bad) 20 pages.