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Stalking The Dragon by Mike Resnick

01/12/2009. Contributed by Pauline Morgan

Buy Stalking The Dragon in the USA - or Buy Stalking The Dragon in the UK

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pub: Pyr/Prometheus Books. 290 page enlarged paperback. Price: $15.98 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59102-745-4.

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Humour is a very difficult thing to write. Not everyone laughs at the same things and what can be described as 'uproariously funny' by one critic can leave another cold. The same is true about films and fiction. One person can see something as side-splitting, another merely silly. Sometimes it depends on the mood you are in.

There are authors that can make one book witty and humorous, but when they try to continue the series, they fail, as all the best jokes were in the first volume and they are trying too hard in later books. I do not laugh aloud at many things, but Mike Resnick manages to write on my wavelength.

'Stalking The Dragon' is the third in his series involving the seedy gumshoe John Justin Mallory. In the first, 'Stalking The Unicorn', Mallory was living in the Manhattan Americans are familiar with. His detective business was not going well and his wife had run off with his partner. Then an elf turns up on New Year's Eve wanting to hire him to find a unicorn and things start to get weird. He has just twenty-four hours to find it. The unicorn, though, has gone missing in an alternative Manhattan where all kinds of mythical and imaginary creatures are common-place. At the end of the novel, Mallory decides to stay. He has a new partner, big game hunter Winnifred Carruthers, a magic mirror that argues with him and an office cat-thing, Felina, who has the attention span of a gnat and a desire to eat continuously.

Their second case, 'Stalking The Vampire', takes place over the night of Halloween, when they have to find the vampire that has bitten Winnifred's nephew twice and before it can do so again.

This volume, 'Stalking The Dragon', involves (you've guessed it) tracking down a dragon in time for the annual Eastminster show on Valentine's night. This is the mythical pet version of Crufts. The main problem is that the stolen dragon , Fluffy, is only eleven inches tall. It is the likely winner of best in show and her chief rival is a chimera owned by the Grundy, the demon behind most of the bad things in the city. This time, though, the Grundy wants the dragon found for, even though he is evil incarnate, he is also a sportsman. He wants to win fairly, but does not intend to be helpful to Mallory. That would be unethical. As Fluffy only eats elephant-shaped marshmallow cookies, the team attacks the problem from two directions: the source of these cookies and the places one might hide a dragon. During the search, Mallory manages to acquire a new assistant, a mobile phone called Belle who is passionately and embarrassingly, in love with him. This is probably the only real concession made to February 14th, a feature that tends to get lost in the hunt.

All the books in the series have the same shape - an investigation involving a mythical beast (not that the vampires would appreciate being called mythical or beasts), twenty-four hours to find the quarry and encounters with the weird and wonderful. At the same time, the humour is still fresh and the stories are different enough to make the books exciting. In some ways, Resnick is encroaching on Pratchett territory but because these novels have that seedy, Chandleresqe feel, Resnick has the edge. This is a combination of fantasy and comedy that is hard to beat.

Pauline Morgan

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