The crime genre is very well established and has many shortcuts and tropes that you can use. This allows genre authors to drape their own unique ideas over familiar territory. Want to write a book about a Dinosaur PI – go ahead. Sherlock Holmes actually a Warlock – sorted. You can throw in crazy ideas and twists in the knowledge that the crime foundations they are built on are firm. The issue is that although the fantastical elements often work, the crime elements do not; writing a good mystery is not as easy as it first appears. However, if you can combine your new ideas into the classic format you are on to something that is great fun for both fantasy and crime lovers. You get a book a bit like This Body's Not Big Enough for Both of Us.
A Kimrean and Z Kimrean are Private Investigators who work closely together. So closely that they inhabit the same body. It is not multiple personalities inside one person, but two distinct strands of DNA. Adrian and Zooey are siblings; one impulsive, the other calculated. One a boy, the other a girl. Their unique outlook on life helps during their cases, but also gets them a lot of odd looks and in more than a bit of trouble. When the members of a mob family are being butchered they may not be the first investigators you would call, but when an undercover officer needs a PI no one is going to suspect that the Kimreans work with the police.
To say that Both of Us is not your normal PI novel is an understatement, but for all its exotic trappings, at heart it is a hardboiled detective novel from the old school. What separates it from the pulp novels of the 50s is the unique central creation and an irreverent approach to the genre. Edgar Cantero seems like an author who likes to play with genres and his audience. The first segment of this book is almost Chuck Palahniuk like and it takes your brain a little while to click into how the book is written. However, when it does you are in for a fun ride.
In the Kimreans you have a splendid central pairing that really throw the story in all directions. They are also very self-knowing, almost as if they are aware that they live in a Private Eye book. Cantero establishes the rules of what makes a good pulp detective novel, but like any good author he breaks them all in the end.
The internal macerations between Adrian and Zooey are both amusing and novel. You have one personality who just wants to party and the other who wants to work. Cantero is able to show that although Zooey is a hedonist it works in her favour as she connects better with the more broken clients. Just leave the actual detective work to Adrian’s savant part of the brain.
There is a real danger of Both of Us being a gimmick book with little merit apart from being interesting take on the genre, but this is not the case as Cantero is actually very respectful of what makes a good crime story. This is a very amusing book and some of the set pieces that the Kimreans get themselves in will be unlike anything you have read before, but at the centre of the book is a very solid and interesting mystery. Who is the killer and what is their motive? Cantero is able to throw in some twists and comes up with a solution that will have you guessing throughout.
By balancing the irreverence of his lead characters with a begrudging respect for the pulp crime genre Cantero has produced a book that should appeal to both crime readers and those that like a taste of fantasy/science fiction genres. The fact is that this is not fantasy as the Kimreans are meant to be medically uncommon, but possible. However, in reality it does just tease into the urban fantasy sphere as two distinct personalities trapped in the same body who also want to be PIs is unlikely! Thankfully, the fact that they have become hardboiled detectives means that the reader is in for a lot of fun and more than a touch of madness crammed into one book.
Written on 19th March 2019 by Sam Tyler.
SFBook is entirely funded by Ant including hosting, development and any other costs.
If you enjoy the site please consider a small donation towards the cost of the upkeep and development of SFBook.