Review: Doppelgangster

DoppelgangsterI ran across this in the bookshelves at a local book store when I was browsing for a new author a few months back, and was intrigued by the blurb on the back cover (ironically by an author whose name didn’t ring any bells, despite the “New York Times bestselling author” appellation).

“In Laura Resnick’s Doppelgangster, the New York actress is ‘resting’ between roles by working as a singing waitress at a Manhattan mob restaurant because wiseguys tip well. Then duplicated gangsters appear, bullets start flying, and it’s up to Esther and her friend Max the Magician to fight Evil by stopping the gang war before it starts killing the wrong people. And if she has time, maybe Esther can actually keep a hot date with her hunky detective friend Lopez, who doesn’t believe in magic. Yet. Unplug the phone and settle down for a fast and funny read.”
New York Times bestselling author Mary Jo Putney

What I didn’t realized when I bought it, based on the way DAW was marketing it, was that rather than being the first in the series, this was actually the second book. (And can I digress here a moment, to complain about how truly NON-USEFUL it is to have publishing houses pick up a series at the second book and not provide readers any guidance about other, previous books that author has produced, because they’re on a different label?? In this case, Luna bears that imprint, and I shudder to think what kind of politics played into the decision to carry on as if the second book were the first in the series. In a tweet 11/16 @laresnick says it will be reprinted by DAW June, 2012.) Thankfully, Resnick seems to have recognized that this might be an issue, and has back-loaded information from Disappearing Nightly as appropriate into this installment of her ongoing Esther Diamond series.

This did mean there was some repetitive information built in to the story line, as if to ensure the reader doesn’t miss the fact that Esther is a struggling actress who really has no special skills apart from acting–and a penchant for getting herself into sticky situations. She’s a smart-mouthed woman not unlike Stephanie Plum and in this installment is working as a waitress at a known mob hang-out. This, naturally, is a bit of a concern to her cop almost-boyfriend, who is trying to solve murder mysteries of his own.

It all ends up reading like a madcap mix of romance, fantasy, and mystery–and really tickled my funny bone with some laugh-out-loud moments:

Father Gabriel said, “And I’m so pleased you and Lucky chose St. Monica’s for this meeting. A house of God is certainly the right place to take the first step toward ending this new round of violence and renewing our bonds with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord.” He did a little double take when he looked at me and remembered I wasn’t a Christian. “And also certainly the loving bonds of, er, Moses, Abraham, Yahweh … Yes, indeed. All very good people, too.”

OK… Maybe just that one paragraph doesn’t convey the hilarity of a chick dressed like an Italian mobster’s gumata talking to another Italian mobster’s widow in a church, while trying to subtly (as subtly as a bull in a china store, really) pump her for information.

Most urban fantasy heroines come with some sort of power of their own, so finding one who is down on her luck, and as common as they come and thus reacts to the wildly strange apparitions that start plaguing her life with the aplomb of a seasoned New Yorker who knows that if you just treat them normally they’re likely to go away on their own, is a real treat.

I can highly recommend this one as a funny revisioning of the common urban fantasy tropes, that focuses more on the murder mystery and romance angles than the paranormal side–though that is deftly woven into the mix as well. And I’m excited that there are two more books planned in the series, for a grand total of six, so keep your eyes open with me for more publication information upcoming.

3 Responses to “Review: Doppelgangster”

  1. zencherry says:

    Ooooo…I likey! Fantastically reviewed!

  2. HI, thanks for reviewing the book!

    There are more than 6 Esther Diamond novels, planned–the series is just currently under contract through #6.

    The problems of relaunching a series with book #2 is plagued by practical sales/marketing problems (rather than politics), which is precisely why most series never get that chance. So I’m really glad that DAW Books believed enough in Esther Diamond’s potential to give it a try–and also really glad that it’s worked well enough that we’re finally able to reissue Disappearing Nightly, the series’ first book, in 2012, as part of the relaunched series. Readers having been asking about it steadily ever since Doppelgangster came out.

    But the Esther books will always contain thorough backstory. As a reader, I’m not organized enough to read a series in perfect chronological order, and I’m also too busy (and too blonde) to remember everything relevant that happened in a book which I read weeks or months before I’m reading the next book in the series. For these reasons, I can’t read authors who don’t provide sufficient continuity/context/backstory in each novel in a series. And I assume I have (at least some) readers who are as disorganized and busy as I am–so I include this kind of info in every series book I write, too. 🙂

  3. butterflywings says:

    You weren’t missing much – starting with the second book is a good idea. It is a better novel entirely!

    I enjoyed your review 😉

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