The Better Part of Darkness (Charlie Madigan #1) by Kelly Gay
I’m ashamed to say that The Better Part of Darkness has been sitting on my shelf at my parents’ place for a while. I bought it at the same time that I got Kelly Meding’s Three Days to Dead (my review here) but it ended up languishing on the shelf. I think it’s because I bought the two Kellys’ books at the same time and I somehow convinced myself that I had, in fact, read both of them. I only realized my mistake a couple weekends ago, when I took The Better Part of Darkness on a trip, thinking it was going to be fun to re-read it. Ha. Mistake. But a very welcome one since I couldn’t put the book down.
The Better Part of Darkness is Charlie Madigan’s story. A divorced mom of one and a cop on the Atlanta P.D.’s Integration Task Force, she’s on the front line dealing with off-world criminals. Recently returned from the dead, Charlie has nightmares and occasional bouts of super strength that she can’t explain. While trying to cope with this, Charlie and her partner Hank, a male siren, are investigating ash, a new drug in Atlanta that seems to have off-world origins, and this gets Charlie in trouble with some of the big bads in town, including the local jinn tribe.
When I got in the bath with this book, I was a little confused because it was all so new and exciting. (Not a bad thing, but I was expecting the familiar and exciting.) Kelly Gay has created a compelling heroine with Charlie. She’s a little too independent for her own good, she fights the good fight, she has a will-they-won’t-they-I-kind-of-hope-they-do relationship with Hank, and she’s distrustful of magic. All things I love in a protagonist. And on top of all of that, Kelly Gay has crafted a wonderful story full of twists and turns, many of them unexpected.
The supporting cast in The Better Part of Darkness is very strong. Hank is an interesting foil for Charlie and seems to have deep feelings for her. They may not be romantic at this point but it sure seems like things could change down the road. He should have some great scenes in the next book, based on events in The Better Part of Darkness. Charlie’s family is also great. Her sister Bryn is unexpectedly layered and her daughter Emma reminds me of Alexis on Castle because she’s so poised for her age. Charlie’s ex, Will, is also a nice addition. It was great to see her struggle with the issues divorcees face, particularly when those divorces stem from your partner’s addiction. This is something I haven’t really seen in other genre books and so it added another layer to Charlie’s backstory and also made her seem a lot more accessible and less remote. Some of the other characters who come in later on in the story are also quite interesting but I hesitate to discuss them since they veer into spoiler territory.
The Better Part of Darkness ends with a game changer. It’s a bold decision for a debut novel and it’s gotten me very excited about the sequel, The Darkest Edge of Dawn, which is out now and on my To Buy list.
I have a couple more points to touch on before I end this already lengthy post. The first is about the setting. I thought it was interesting that the book is set in Atlanta. I’ve never been there so I’m not sure if there’s something about the city that makes it ripe for supernatural invasion (at least in literature) but it’s the same city as Ilona Andrews‘ Kate Daniels books, the Skindancerstrilogy by Anthony Francis, and Seressia Glass‘ Shadowchaser series. I’m not saying that multiple series can’t exist in the same city since that happens time and again, especially when the authors have created distinct worlds, but it was something that popped into my mind as soon as I read the blurb. I think I’m going to have to go to Atlanta to see what makes it so interesting.
The second, and last point, I have to make is about the cover. Cover art is so important for me and it really influences my buying decisions. I’ve bought books based on the cover alone and also hesitated over books with covers I didn’t like. This cover has both good and bad qualities. The positive: I really like it because it portrays an urban fantasy/paranormal heroine without exposing (a) her midriff, (b) her boobs, (c) her long, long legs, and/or (d) her whole dang body. Granted, Charlie’s showing a little tummy but she’s definitely more clothed than some other ladies in fiction. (Am I alone in thinking there are way too many covers that exploit a particular body part instead of hinting at the story? I don’t mind a little exposure if it’s indicative of story content but hot chicks for hot chicks’ sake gets a bit old.) I also like the graphic quality the image has since that helps set the book apart from many other covers, which tend to have a more photographic quality to them. The embedded images in the background are also really neat. The negatives are small and you may think I’m crazy for saying it. Charlie’s hair really bugs me. And the longer I look at it, the more I’m irritated. It’s something about how much hair is used outside of the ponytail on the right side of her face. It just has this weird late 90s vibe for me and it irks me inexplicably. The second negative is more of a wishful thinking type of thing. I wish that we could get a better look at Charlie’s amulet (assuming that’s what she’s wearing in the image).
Charlie Madigan books (click on the title to purchase through The Book Depository)