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J.B. Curry
Author
Shadow & Poison
J.B. Curry, author
When monsters stalk the darkness of Prohibition era Chicago, it takes a special kind of hero to kill them. Private detective Mark Van Ryn’s supernatural power over shadow has made him an outcast his whole life. When a mutated creature starts eating Chicago’s gangsters from the inside out, Mark is the only man in the city who can hunt it down and destroy it. But a dangerous lady has a job for Mark too, one that might cost him more than his life. Gifted perfumer Eliza Karlova needs a man. The most evil man Chicago’s got. And she needs Mark to find him for her. Because Eliza has a deadly power of her own and a family legacy she’s doomed to keep. But when forbidden passion flames up between Eliza and the angelically handsome detective, she has to decide between her destiny, and the man she loves. War brews in the city as the Century of Progress World’s Fair draws near, and Mark and Eliza must find a way to trust each other if their love, and Chicago, are to survive. "Gritty and gripping, powerful and sexy, Shadow and Poison will have your heart racing with each kill and every searing kiss."—-Max Watson, author of Chains of Nurture
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.50 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: J.B. Curry writes a fascinating novel that takes apart numerous literary conflicts, including character versus self, man versus nature, and man against man. In the same manner as Frankenstein, the book fabricates a sheer line between the natural and the manmade and cautions against an engineered society.

Prose/Style: The author models her prose after the book’s title, where the words are as intangible as the wind—something unable to grasp yet absorbed by one’s senses. The descriptions are wispy and fleeting with a smoothness that elicits the same lulling sensation as Eliza’s fragrance.

Originality: Curry successfully sets her story in the midst of the Prohibition Era, where there is an already established atmosphere of secrecy and crime. Just as H.H. Holmes scoured the World's Columbian Exposition, Curry devises mythical creatures to terrorize the fair’s second revival.

Character Development/Execution: The author sympathizes with her characters, lending a similar compassion to readers. By creating a storyline about acceptance, Curry challenges the way physical appearance is often associated with humanness, in order to grant her characters dignity.

Date Submitted: April 13, 2021

Reviews
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

A detective with strange powers takes on a client whose touch is deadly in this romantic fantasy.

The year is 1933, and Mark Van Ryn is Chicago’s only albino private eye. But his most unusual feature is his ability to melt into and travel within shadows. His reputation for solving supernatural crimes brings Elizaveta Karlova to his doorstep. She hires him to dig up dirt on five wealthy men, one of whom she plans to marry. Mark tries to decline the case, but Eliza insists. She doesn’t tell him that she’s a Lamia, possessing a scent that ensnares men and a touch, if she chooses, that can kill. No sooner does Eliza leave than one of Gabriel “Scarface” Camonte’s thugs arrives. The mobster hires Mark to find out what’s dissolving his men from the inside out. Later, Mark tries to inform Eliza that he’s quit her case, but she won’t accept his decision. She uses her cursed scent to tame the detective, ensuring that he becomes obsessed with her. Mark crashes a party at which Eliza hopes to woo her potential husbands, including Lionel Duke of Duke Chemical. Does the industrial waste created by his company have anything to do with mobsters dying near sinks and drainage systems? In Curry’s series opener, a Chicago between World Wars provides a moody backdrop for superpowered individuals to fight crime and enjoy steamy sex. Mark is like a “Greek statue come to life,” who isn’t above using his shadow powers to spy on Eliza. “Wouldn’t you like to touch me?” she asks, knowing he’s somehow watching her undress. Duke is thoroughly villainous in saying, “War will never be over.” A tentacled monstrosity grants the narrative horror bona fides, and a rooftop tryst fulfills the inevitable Batman homage. The author’s secondary characters shine, including Frasier Robinson, Mark’s Black best friend. In one scene, Eliza shakes his hand and causes an “audible gasp” from White partygoers. But stealing the show is the sustained, high-resolution carnality of the protagonists. Rabbits seem lazy compared to Mark and Eliza, giving this entertaining tale a striking erotic polish.

A torrid, atmospheric fantasy that satisfies on all fronts.

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