REVIEW: The Taken by Vicki Pettersson

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

For the reader of popular literature who has everything but would prefer to have it all in one book, bestselling author Vicki Pettersson has started a new series, The Celestial Blues. The first book of the series, The Taken, will be released Tuesday, and the author will be discussing it at Mysterious Galaxy Friday evening. The novel combines noir crime fiction, urban fantasy, romance and a good dose of rockabilly nostalgia in a fun concoction that is likely to appeal to an eclectic audience.

Pettersson, author of the bestselling urban fantasy series Signs of the Zodiak, has once again used the colorful patina of Las Vegas, Nevada, her hometown, to add texture and tone to her characters. They include a slightly tormented journalist, Kit Craig, orphaned in her youth and soon to inherit the family print newspaper in the age of instant sound bites. She compensates by immersing herself in the retro rockabilly lifestyle.

Craig’s penchant for the 1950s and 60s and her nose for a story provide the perfect set up for an inevitable attraction between her and Griffin Shaw. Shaw is a curmudgeonly supernatural detective, dead for some fifty years, which he has spent taking the victims of violent death to heaven’s pearly gates.

Shaw blows a “take,” Craig’s murdered colleague, and the resulting sequence of mysteriously connected events results in a collaboration: They agree to work together to solve the new murder — and that of Shaw and his wife, which happened fifty years before. The ensuing investigation reveals some of the flavor of rockabilly along with a particularly ugly underbelly of Las Vegas, which might not be palatable for some readers.

Pettersson’s mythology has a complex hierarchical structure that occasionally puts various levels of celestial beings at odds with one another, despite their common boss, God, which infuses some entertaining conflict into the book’s subplots. And their various degrees of power and talents, such as Shaw’s ability to “see” pending death, effectively integrate the supernatural into the plot, although there are one or two heavenly “rescues” that are a wee bit too convenient. Nonetheless, Pettersson’s easy style, her eye for period detail, and her wit effectively convince the reader to suspend disbelief.

In The Taken, Pettersson’s combination of dark fantasy, some choice historical tidbits about Las Vegas and the city’s criminal and political benefactors, and the running theme of the mystery behind the Shaw murders suggest some entertaining possibilities in the second book of the series, The Lost, scheduled for release in March 2013.

Reading: Friday, 15 June, 7 p.m., Mysterious Galaxy, 7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego Info: 858-268-4747 or mystgalaxy.com Publisher: Harper Voyager Binding: paperback Pages: 420 Price: $13.99, ebook prices vary Author website: vickipettersson.com

Crossposted at the North County Times and San Diego Gay & Lesbian News