Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe King
Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe King is a short novella that packs a punch. It’s a mystery, thriller, with a noir atmosphere and a hint of magic thrown in to tell -I don’t want to say gritty because I found the writing too beautiful for that word- but the atmosphere and setting bring to mind stories set in early nineteenth century London.
The novella follows Alys, a Lowside girl that trades in secrets and Magistrate Inspector Daxton Ellis, a Lord of the Highside, and Alys’ ex-lover. The chemistry between them is still hot, and their case, a missing Highside girl found dead on the Lowside docks, brings a lot of memories and some regrets to the surface. Together they have to navigate the seedy underside of Lowside, meeting a variety of lowlife characters as they go.
This book is in turn gruesome, rough, ugly, and funny. It’s also remarkably well-written but entirely too short for my tastes. I didn’t want it to end! The descriptions had me feeling like I was slogging through the muck and choking on cloying perfume in turn. All of the characters were well developed and there’s a clear history between Alys and everyone she meets. I just wish I knew what it was. This whole book, short as it was, felt like it was missing a whole layer of backstory and explanation. We learn the bare bones about Alys’ and Daxton’s relationship, but of High and Lowside, we only know what comes up in conversation, though I feel that either character could have given us a quick history lesson and explained things a bit better to me. There are lords, districts, magic users, gangs, High and Lowside is separated, but I don’t know why. And I still, a day after finishing the book, am bothered by that missing information. The plot was fairly straightforward, with only one or two twists, and neither Alys nor Dax seemed to have any major mishaps. Alys always knew where to go and who to talk to, which lessened the suspense for me. I wanted to see them struggle in areas other than their relationship. Other than that, I loved the book and I will definitely be reading the next in this series.
My Rating: 4.6/5
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