Dead Man in a Ditch – Luke Arnold

“They say the cold won’t kill you if you can remember what it was like to be warm.

Welcome back to Sunder City, where we first met Fetch Phillips, Man for Hire. Sunder was one a shining beacon of industry, a vibrant and diverse community than included dwarves, vampires, and more. And then there was a war, and those stupid humans managed to destroy the source of all magic – a war that Fetch was far more involved in than his conscience can take.

So welcome back, too, to a magical world where magic has died. Elves aged hundreds of years, instantly. Were-creatures were often caught mid-transform. And Fetch makes his living as a hard-bitten detective type, but never ever working for humans.

But what about the hints of magical occurrences reappearing in the city? Is the magic really back? And what would people – weres and vampires and elves and more – do to have just that?

Last Smile in Sunder City was a fortunate find for me, and I enjoyed the very different kind of urban fantasy – one where magic has disappeared. The aftermath is such a huge part of the world and its viewpoints, and Fetch’s guilt plays an even bigger role here. We get more flashbacks to his past, as he gets involved in several cases almost against his will. What happened to the hard-gambling elf? Why are the new Big Industry carriages being attacked on their way into town – surely everyone wants what they promise, a new future, a mechanical return to some kind of prosperity?

There’s a lot of darkness and a grim and grimy tone to this, and yet it’s far from a miserable read. There are little hints of real-world obsessions, and I must admit a little bit of Pratchett to my mind, in the first… well, let’s not spoil it. Most of all, it was complete journey of intrigue, finding out more about poor Fetch, and a lot more about this amazing post-magic world.

Absolutely thrilled that the third book – One Foot in the Fade – is due out this week (!), as I rather enjoy journeying with Fetch, miserable git that he can be 😉

Dead Man in a Ditch book coverKindle: 464 pages / 82 chapters
First published: 2020
Series: Fetch Phillips Archives book 2
Read from 10th-13th March 2022

My rating: 8/10

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