Titanshade – Dan Stout

Carter’s a homicide cop in Titanshade, an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, and all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. It’s also a metropolis teetering on the edge of disaster. As its oil reserves run dry, the city’s future hangs on a possible investment from the reclusive amphibians known as Squibs.

But now negotiations have been derailed by the horrific murder of a Squib diplomat. The pressure’s never been higher to make a quick arrest, even as Carter’s investigation leads him into conflict with the city’s elite. Undermined by corrupt coworkers and falsified evidence, and with a suspect list that includes power-hungry politicians, oil magnates, and mad scientists, Carter must find the killer before the investigation turns into a witch-hunt and those closest to him pay the ultimate price on the filthy streets of Titanshade.

Look, you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can definitely get wicked fucking excited when you see something that screams READ ME READ ME on the shelf. Such is the case with Dan Stout’s book, Titanshade. I gather some people have…very particular feelings about covers with full length images of people on them? I don’t know.

But I fucking love it. And I’m a particular sucker for anything Chris McGrath does, and the cover for this book speaks to me on many levels. Oof. I LOVE IT SO MUCH!

Titanshade is the start of a new series, The Carter Archives, that seems to exist at the crossroads of many different genres. This one blends elements of sci-fi, urban fantasy, noir, crime fiction…it’s a wicked blend, and Stout pulls it off quite convincingly.

Carter (if his first name is ever given, I missed it) is a homicide detective in the city of Titanshade. He’s been made infamous as a result of a really tragic & horrifying incident in his past. So much so that he is basically forbidden by the police department from getting much credit for his work, or having his name or image appear in newspapers. So he does the work, behind the scenes, and other detectives get the credit.

Carter is paired with a young new partner, Ajax, to work on some grisly new cases, which may or may not be connected. Ajax, the sharply dressed, tusked humanoid on the cover, is a Mollenkampi. He & Carter have a touch of that grizzled-veteran-showing-the-young-hotshot-a-thing-or-two vibe initially, but I actually really liked how Stout established the dynamic between these two characters. Ajax doesn’t so much shut Carter down, as he just shows himself to be an extremely bright & reliable partner, and Carter really grows to trust & lean on him.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to push it out of your mind, some characters remind you of other characters, and this weird sort of amalgamation takes place in your mind. At least, for me it does. This really doesn’t happen for me very often, but one of the more notable examples for me was with Chuck Wendig’s character, Miriam Black. I started reading those books right around the same time that Jessica Jones premiered on Netflix, and I would frequently picture Krysten Ritter as Miriam.

Something kinda similar happened with Titanshade. When things with COVID-19 really started hitting, I just randomly fell into watching Bosch. I have no plans to read the books, and I wasn’t necessarily looking for a cop show to watch. It just kinda…was there, and I put it on. And I dug it, so I kept watching. What I like most about the show is the relationship between Bosch and his partner, J. Edgar. And as I started to read Titanshade, I could see some parallels between the two sets of characters. With particular regard to the more seasoned veteran cop coming to rely on & trust the younger cop, without the cliched “you young whippersnapper” vibe taking over.

This is a really cool start to a series, and I’m excited to see where Stout takes things from here. The city of Titanshade is rendered in amazing & grungy detail here…there’s some magical elements at work in this story, it’s gritty, everyone has a pager instead of a cellphone, disco is apparently cool, there’s big-ass humanoid frogs, I mean…this is a weird world, and I’m here for it.

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