Bo Blackman is a rookie private investigator working for the London based firm of Dire Straits. She doesn't often get triber-based assignments, which is just as well. Vampires and daemons don't interest her as much as humans do. However, when she has to serve a summons on a dodgy daemon called Devlin O'Shea and she ends up saving his life instead of being framed for his murder, her life takes a shocking turn for the worse. And when the vampire Families start involving themselves too, Bo no longer knows where to turn.
©2014 Helen Harper (P)2014 Tantor
Long term book junkie only recently addicted to audio books. Now my iPod and I are inseparable.
Set in an alternative contemporary London where Tribers (Demons, Witches and Vampires) have been an accepted part of society for centuries, “Dire Straits” tells the story of Bo Blackman, a bottom-rung-of-the-ladder investigator at the Dire Straits detective agency, who is set up for a murder charge when she attempts to serve a summons on a demon.
“Dire Straits” is excellent Urban Fantasy by any standard: it gives a new and convincing take on Vampires, Witches and Demons; it has a complicated, well thought through plot that kept me hungry to know what would happen next while feeding me action, tension, and emotional upheaval along the way and the main character is engaging as much for her flaws as for her strengths.
My enjoyment of all these attributes was greatly increased by the fact that the book is set in London, which means that, as a Brit, I can clearly see where fantasy has been skillfully grafted on to reality. Most of the Urban Fantasy I read is set in the US. I’ve traveled and worked there enough to be able to recognize Butcher’s Chicago or Andrew’s Atlanta but I know that there are many cultural nuances that I miss. With “Dire Straits”, it’s as if I’m moved to the 3D, HD, Surround Sound version of Urban Fantasy. These are people I recognise, even if they are Vampires or Demons.
“Dire Straits” has a very English tone, with different attitudes to conflict (at least in public), strong links to class-based elites, a very different, non-gun-carrying kind of police force, and neat twists that apply British attitudes to race and immigration to Tribers, even quoting Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech. London provides an atmospheric backdrop for the action, including mansions that Vampires have owned for centuries and a very dramatic scene set inside Big Ben. British humour and wordplay makes the dialogue richer and British swearing takes it well outside the US romance writers’ guidelines. Still, Josh Whedon was able to slip words like “Bugger” and “Sod off” into “Buffy” scripts because the American censors didn’t understand them. I wonder what they’d make of the recurring use of “Smegging Hell” here? They’d probably object to the “Hell” part.
The Vampires and Witches in the book are very English. The Vampires put on a front of being upper class Eton and Oxford types who would regard it as bad form to lose control in public. Quite different from the almost-Mafia image Vampires are often given. The Witches come across as eccentric Glastonbury Festival meets Alternative Intellectual types.
Part of the plot is set in what, in American Urban Fantasy, might be a Vampire Academy, except that the main character is desperate NOT to become a Vampire, the Vampire tutors inflict death-by-PowerPoint in nightly training sessions and the “students” range from upper class privileged types through to total Chavs.
In England, names mean a lot. When J.K. Rowling names a character Dolores Umbridge we all know what to expect: someone who spreads sadness and takes offense easily. Helen Harper chooses her names with care but one of them made me stumble. A lawyer in the story is called Harry D’Agneau (pardon me if the spelling is wrong – I listened to the audiobook). I think the name is meant to make him exotic, posh but something of an outsider, perhaps like Michael Portillo. The problem is that the name translates literally to Harry of Lamb. I kept thinking of him as Larry the Lamb. Not at all the image that was intended.
I was disappointed in Tantor Press’ choice of narrator. This book cried out for an English narrator like Emma Fielding or Finty Williams, who could have extracted every ounce of class difference from the various accents. Tantor chose Saskia Maarleveld, who comes from New Zealand. She is a very good narrator but she can’t sustain the English accents over the whole book. I looked up the narrator because I couldn’t figure out why Bo Blackman’s accent ranges from “I went to a very good public school” through to “I’ve recently returned from a few years in Australia”. Saskia Maarleveld also lacks the range to differentiate the voices of the many male characters, a curious number of whom seem to be Irish or Welsh, although the text gives no indication of this. I still enjoyed listening to Saskia Maarleveld but I felt that I was missing out on the performance that could have been there.
I devoured “Dire Straits” in a couple of days. It works as a stand-alone novel with a satisfying ending. The good news is that it’s the first in a series with a set of long story arcs. So far this month I’ve read two more: “New Order” and “High Stakes” and each was better than the last. I’m now waiting for the fourth book, “Red Angel” to be released as an audiobook.
I really enjoyed this story lots of twists and turns. The narration is excellent. Some very interesting characters. Bo in particular is well thought out and I am looking forward to hearing her future adventures. I have already purchased the next one.
Bo Blackman isn’t going to win a ‘Detective of the Year’ contest, but she stumbles upon a case that has to be solved because her life depends on it. Bo is likeable, and I was happy to follow her through her adventure, sometimes cringing at her detective skills, but regardless it was a good read. It gave an interesting spin on the vampire world, and didn’t go overboard on emotions or romance. I shall look forward to reading the next instalment.
Parts were skimmed over that should have been elaborated, making the story feel uneven. A lack of secondary characters development, they feel quite flat. As a whole I didn't like the story as well as the others other series but I think I'll get the second one a chance in the hope that things will improve. I really didn't like the ending of this one it was quite upsetting as it continues to make the heroine a victim.
I have to say that the reader truly got into the characters. I was able to keep them all separate just by the voice that was used. Very enjoyable.
Bo Blackman is my favorite character. She really grows and blossoms through all the books and I can relate to her in many of the situations she finds herself in with difficult decisions to make and not always having the best answer.
She truly did a good job bringing out the characters that made it easy for the listeners to tell who is speaking before the narrations tells them. Very good.
Many sections made me laugh and cry. You will have to listen for yourself to see if the book moves you as much as it did me.
This series has grabbed my attention and held it. The characters are well rounded and fun to follow. There is joy, sorrow and anger inspired by the situations and it will hold your attention as well. Hope you enjoy as much as I do!
"Fun Read, doesn't spoil it, or end up too trashy."
The narrator is excellent she has the voice for romance but doesn't give it too much burn for us male readers. You can still hold on to what dignity you have this is not girl porn....yet. It has like 3 uncomfortable scenes at most well within the threshold of not trashy. It will start the engines for the ladies I'm sure but not being one I'll let them speak to that.
The combat is a bit jarring, a super powerful character can fall to a half dead much weaker character without the need for surprise or deceit which throws those of us who expect things to make a bit more sense.
The story line itself namely the mystery is not given away with too obvious foreshadowing and the twists and clues really draw you in. In addition, the main character isn't super perfect and stumbles trough making mistakes and coming out through grit and determination that brings you to feel for her even as you groan at her all too human failings.
well rounded full bodied and burns going down like a good wine.
"It was mixed"
3.5 stars I loved parts of this audio book but not the majority of it. The MC was okay but I didn't connect with her for large sections of the audio book.
"Couldn't finish it..."
I bought this because the premise sounded interesting, and also because of the setting is in England, which usually adds a twist to the story that I like.
This is supposed to be a story about a private investigator that works in a world where various types of monsters are walking around. Sounds interesting -- right?
Well, I gave it as much of a chance as I could stand, but I gave up after a few hours.
Simply stated, if you want a book that spends 90% of the writing describing how the main character feels about her looks, clothes, car, friends, parents, employer, adversaries, food, etc., and if you want lots of descriptions of her clothes and how her clothes got dirty and her crying (or trying so hard not to cry) in every situation, about everything, then this book is for you.
If you want a book that contains interesting dialogue with other characters, or a book where something actually happens in the story more than 5% of the time, then this book is not for you. I hate to sound like a male chauvinist pig, but this book seems to be written for women, so maybe all the women listening to it are the ones giving it 5 stars.
For me, after the 8th or 9th long-winded description of the dress she was wearing, and how it looked on her, and how it made her feel, I couldn't take any more.
"Middle of the road Ok"
Vampires, demons and private detectives traipsing around London. Not a bad way to spend a day.
boring .. Unfortunately very uninteresting story... I wish it were better, another $4 went down the drain
The narrator is perfect for this book. The mixture of Vampire and detective was a new and intresting. Though there were a couple of mistakes made by the Mc that made you want to wince.
I thought this was a paranormal romance novel and, if it had been, it would have been exceptional for the genre. But when by Chapter 20 no one has had an orgasm, I realized it's a paranormal mystery. What's the point of vampires without sex? The novelty of vampires has pretty much played itself out by now, hasn't it?
I think the plot line it is too weak for the mystery genre. The pacing is slow or maybe it is just the tension/suspense fairly mild. While there is a who-done-it there is no intellectual puzzle. Also, only the main character is flushed out and there is little connection betwen her and others.
So far, however, I disagree with some of the reviews about the lead being wimpy or whiny. Those types of female characters irritate me deeply. On the contrary, I find this character reasonable and likeable if a little disonnected. I think readers in this genre are used to super-sleuth genius detectives or the all-knowing sage while this lead is a fairly new detective still learning the ropes.
This is the first book through Audible. Helen's book has me hooked. Her storyline line was gripping. The tension between Bo and Michael was a tease. The ending however was a surprise. I enjoyed the narration. It was very entertaining.
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