Hotter Than Helltown by SM Reine A killer is mutilating bodies in Los Angeles. Agent Cèsar Hawke is on the case, but the murderer is ahead of him–way ahead of him. Wiping the memories of the dead so that the team’s necrocognitive can’t talk to them? Done. Preventing magical reconstruction of the crime scenes? Oh yeah. And the murders keep getting more brutal while Cèsar struggles to catch up. The best way to heat up a cold case is to go to Helltown, where Los Angeles’s most powerful evil hides out, but even those demons are afraid of the murderer. Their fear adds one more question to the growing pile of unknowns: What kind of bad guy is too hot for Helltown?
Publisher: Red Iris Books
S.M. Reine’s Hotter Than Helltown is the third book in the Preternatural Affairs series, which focuses on Cèsar Hawke, an agent with the secret government organization called the Office of Preternatural Affairs (OPA). The OPA operates to investigate and police the demons, witches, and other magical creatures that walk amongst us.
In this installment of the series, Agent Hawke is struggling to solve inconceivable murders, while the pressure to pass his impending licensing test mounts to incredible levels. With the help of his sassy partner Suzy, Isobel’s necrocognitive ability to communicate with the dead, and the encouragement of his boss, Director Friederling, Agent Hawke navigates his way through the murder scenes and into the eponymous Helltown to seek answers.
With a Criminal Minds-meets-The X-Files tone, Reine really draws the reader into the environment of the story. The imagery was strong and I felt like I was right there with the OPA agents. There were a couple of lines of narration at which I found myself laughing out loud; in particular, the image of a “My Little Shaman Princess Barbie costume” was hilarious and there were several more like that interspersed in the story.
Because of its short paragraphs and Reine’s writing style, Hotter Than Helltown was an easy and engaging read; I read the book in an afternoon. I didn’t feel bored while reading, but I wasn’t always positively entertained, either. I wanted an explanation about Helltown before Chapter 12. Some of the narration felt overly-colloquial and awkward. Many of the characters’ names felt too imagined, too forced. Considering the subject matter, though, I suppose there’s some room for suspension of disbelief.
More significant than some out-of-place lines and the names of characters, is my confusion as to whether or not I actually like the narrator. Agent Hawke has an intriguing background, an interesting line-of-work, and several dynamic relationships, but his attitude about the homeless is poor at best. Upon a visit to a soup kitchen, Hawke called homeless people “vagrants” multiple times and had an overall negative attitude. I don’t know why this personality flaw detracted so much from his likability for me, but it did. Oh, and he’s a witch who is allergic to magic which is quirky (I guess) but confusing.
Overall, I’m interested to see where Reine takes this series in the next book and I will likely read it.
Club Fantasci Scoring (Based on scale of 10):
Cover Artwork: 4
Club Fantasci Overall Score: 6
I am giving Hotter Than Helltown 3.5 out 5 stars because it was a quick read with an engaging topic, but there were some elements that I found to be problematic. Other books in the series may address/fix/deal with the “issues” better, so I think the 4th book will be worth the read.
Author Website: www.authorsmreine.com
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Note: A review copy of this book was provided to me.
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