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Stalking The Unicorn (A John Justine Mallory Mystery) by Mike Resnick

01/02/2009. Contributed by Pauline Morgan

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

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pub: Pyr/Prometheus Books. 277 page enlarged paperback. Price: $15.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59102-648-8.

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Gone are the days when publishers insisted on the purity of the novels they issued. The feeling was that if a book could not be pigeon-holed into a particular genre, the bookshops would be confused and not know which shelf to put it on. With the plethora of books available it was important that the buyer knows where to look for what they like in the bookshop. Now there are plenty of books that draw on at least two genres for their effect. Perhaps this is because the older generations of readers have seen a lot of the ideas that the less widely read authors are coming up with. Therefore, novelty and innovation have to be considered.

Mike Resnick has combined fantasy, crime, humour and noir fiction with a concept of parallel universes. This may seem a tall order, but he has accomplished it with aplomb. John Justin Mallory is a seedy private eye in contemporary New York. The atmosphere is Chandleresque and all the action takes place over one night - New Year's Eve. His partner has run off with his wife, he is behind with the rent so celebrates the year's turning with a bottle of bourbon. Therefore, he needs a lot of convincing that the green elf that appears in his office is real. The elf wants to hire him to find a unicorn which he has carelessly lost.

Finally, Mallory takes the job and is led by a mysterious and convoluted route into the parallel dimension that is a New York populated with creatures of myth such as elves, leprechauns, gnomes, harpies and unicorns. In his search, Mallory gets adopted by Felina, a cat-person, who provides a vein of humour by her antics. She has the wilfulness of a cat and the literacy of a child and is a help and a hindrance in equal measure. In order to track down this unicorn, Mallory feels he needs more information and tries the local Museum of Unnatural History where the exhibits, such as T. Rex, come alive at night. He also consults Winifred Carruthers, who is a big game and unicorn hunter. As might be expected, finding a unicorn is not easy, especially as he has a demon trying to thwart him.

This is light reading, but it is fun. The personalities of the characters are brought alive by their actions and words, rather than lengthy decryptions, and this is a skill only the best writers exhibit.

Pauline Morgan

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