I am so glad I read Iron & Velvet. It was wonderful for many reasons not the least of which is how it reminded me why I loved (at least initially) the Anita Blake series, the Sookie Stackhouse series, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Iron & Velvet also pays an homage to the Sam Spade/Dashiel Hammett detective film noir movies as an added bonus. The characters are multi-faceted, the world building is detailed and well thought out, the mystery plot kept me glued to my Kindle, and the creativity is astounding. It was funny, and at times I felt like I was on a treasure hunt for all the hidden gems whether it was references to Casablanca or that age-old problem of how the man gets a fox, a chicken, and a sack of corn across the river. Oh and there's a truly dark flip to King Arthur thrown in just for fun.
When a dead body is found outside a night club belonging to Julian Saint-Germain, one of the four most powerful vampire princes, Kate Kane, P.I., is hired to sleuth out the murderer. This set-up puts Kate in close contact with Julian. While Julian makes it clear she's attracted to Kate, Kate is reluctant to get involved with (a) another vampire since she already has that T-shirt, and (b) because it isn't professional to get involved with a client. Solving this whodunit not only introduces Kate to a new love interest but also opens the door to a plethora of supernatural creatures like murderous unicorns, two varieties of nuns - zombie and demon-hunting pudding loving ninja nuns - a zombie faery stag, and void monsters with weird sucky tentacle things as well as these favorites:
Ashriel: an incubus on a 10-step program.
Tara Vane-Tempest, aka "Bunny": local alpha werewolf who's also into polo and lingerie modeling
Nimue: the Witch Queen and one of Kate's former lovers. Awkwardness ensues.
Aeglica Thrice-Risen: a shades of Beowulf (?) character who is a "hero, a monster, an outcast, and now a vampire", specifically the Prince of Swords, head of security for the Council.
The King of the Court of Love: a King Arthur figure straight out of a nightmare
Edmund Carew: a curate who also channels the rat gestalt
Elise: a statue brought to life a la Pygmalion and Kate's Girl Friday. (I love this character!)
Tash the Teetotal Lesbian: Not a supernatural creature, just exactly that.
This list isn't extensive by any means; these just some of my favorites. And that includes Kate, of course. Kate is half Fae so she has, at times, powers inherited from her mother including enhanced strength and sense of smell, and probably a few more supernatural talents to be revealed later. She's far from perfect - she drinks too much, she smokes too much, she's not very tactful or touchy-feely, but she's fierce, determined, and always has a plan. Well, honestly, most of the time she just flies by the seat of her pants, but it all seems to work out okay. Mostly. Julian, at first, seems to be a standard sex kitten-ish type foil for Kate, but I soon learned she didn't get to be a prince by batting her eyelashes and pouting when things go awry. She's kind of like David Banner the Incredible Hulk. She looks somewhat innocuous at first glance but you won't like it when she's angry. If you don't believe me, read the scene where Kate tells Julian about Maeve. Or the one where Kate and Julian battle Mr. Squidgy. I loved that the tension between these two and between Kate and Tara fairly crackles with intensity.
The humor is probably what I loved the best in Iron & Velvet. It was clear the author was having a good time writing about all these creatures, their powers, and their politics. I couldn't help but laugh each time Kate composes a mental epitaph for her grave when she faces certain death. Like these:
1. “Here lies Kate Kane. Eaten by big bad werewolves. Beloved daughter. Sorely missed”
2. “Here lies Kate Kane. Killed in a foreplay accident. Beloved daughter. Sorely missed.”
3. “Here lies Kate Kane, killed by a bloodsucking monster in the Knightsbridge flat of a far more attractive bloodsucking monster. Beloved daughter. Sorely missed”
Or when Ashriel, an incubus and Julian's right hand man, comes to collect Kate for a meeting with Julian, and he lights up unfiltered Camels as a way to sublimate his craving to feed on human pleasure.
“The last time I fell off the wagon was a hundred and ninety-seven years, five months, and three days ago.”
The mystery of who killed Andrew Vane-Tempest, a werewolf related distantly to Tara, was entertaining and engrossing. The last several chapters kept me swiping my Kindle to get to the next page as fast as I could read. The leads Kate uncovers are skillfully placed to introduce the main players and how they fit into this world. From the over-the-top decadence of The Velvet club to the disgusting journey through the sewers under London, along the way I met plenty of vampires, werewolves, mages, demons, and angels. Oh my! Not to mention some really disgustingly horrific creatures like Rat Knight, Fly Knight, and Rot Knight in the King of the Court of Love's entourage.
I read and loved "Glitterland" by this same author. Glitterland is one of my favorite books this year. I've been warned that these two books are quite different. But I'm OK with that. Glitterland is a contemporary m/m romance while Iron & Velvet is not. I read a lot of different genres and have found that if the story is good and the characters engage my interest, I'm a happy reader. The fact that Iron & Velvet is a paranormal/urban fantasy/lesbian/detective mystery/ thriller didn't take away one ounce of the enjoyment I got from reading it. Yes, it is different, but this author's writing style is wonderful and pulls me right into the story. I clearly and distinctly heard and loved his voice throughout Iron & Velvet even if it came from a snarky P.I. and not a Glitter Pirate. Kate and Julian et al are fun, and I look forward to reading more adventures starring Kate Kane.