Friday, 26 July 2013

The Changeling Detective by Phillip Berrie

The Changeling Detective by Phillip Berrie is a short novel about a private investigator who can change his appearance (shocking revelation based on the title, I know). It was first self-published in 2011 and has recently been picked up by Hotspur Publishing. The latter edition is the one I read. Blurb:
For a private detective, being able to change your face is a distinct advantage. The Changeling Detective thought he was unique, a mutant of sorts, like those he had read about in comics when he was younger. However, when he becomes the focus of a vile-smelling crime boss with similar abilities and meets a genuine witch, the Changeling Detective has his whole world turned upside down.

An urban fantasy/detective noir story in an Australian setting with elements of crime, horror, witchcraft and deep-time science fiction.
Above all, I would call this an action-packed read. There is a mystery element to it, of course, but it ends up focussing mostly on the origins of the detective rather than on an unrelated crime as it first looks like it might. For that reason, I'd be inclined to label it more urban fantasy than crime, although I imagine sequels might swing in the other direction. For lack of a better descriptor, I'll refer to the detective as John for the rest of this review (not his real name but one of the aliases he was using).

John is very much the only central character in this story. There are other characters present in the narrative, of course, but they all play second fiddle. Ruth, the love interest/sidekick is a fun character and provided a — I hesitate to say normal — non-shapeshifter perspective. There wasn't that much room with everything else going on for a lot of time spent dwelling on their relationship but the building blocks were certainly there. There is quite a bit of potential for sequels to develop it further.

The bad guy, Newman, was adequately dangerous and somewhat confusing, in a good way. A reasonable part of the story focussed on John trying to work out why Newman was trying to kill him. Let's just say it wasn't the reason he originally thought. And I liked that the answers left some back story to explore in sequels (which are hopefully forthcoming).

All in all, The Changeling Detective was a fun read. It's more or less what it says in the title. I recommend it to urban fantasy fans after a quick read, particularly one with a lot of action. Oh, and I should mention it's set in Canberra, which may be a selling point for those sick of New York and other American cities (or is that just me?).

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2011, this edition June 2013, Hotspur Publishing
Series: Yes. Book 1 of ?
Format read: eARC
Source: courtesy of the author
Disclaimer: Although the author is a friend, I have attempted to write an unbiased review.

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