Amazon blurb – “Tim Wassiter, P.I. isn’t a cynical old-school detective with a bottle in the desk, he’s the new-age version with chickens, tea – and a little bit of magic. His ex-partner scoffs, the old lady down the road just wants him to find her missing cat, but Tim knows that magic works. He’s seen the proof and he’s learning to use it to solve crimes.
Money’s tight but now he has his first real case. But what sounds like easy money isn’t as simple as it seems. The mysterious woman who hired him has dangerous friends and they’re rapidly losing patience. Tim needs to discover what’s really going on, and fast. Soon there’s an even more mysterious woman, a series of increasingly strange events, and a great many more cats.
As things get more violent, more bewildering and more utterly weird, Tim discovers that this case goes far deeper than he could ever have imagined. Everything is connected, even the past and the future, and everyone is looking for a girl who almost certainly does not exist.
And magic isn’t just real, it’s probably going to get him killed.”
You know that feeling, when you read a book, that you know the writer has arrived? For some it’s with their first book (e.g. Stephen King and Carrie) for others it’s a third, fourth or even later book and for some it never happens. For Gullen I think this is the book. It feels like a more emphatic expression of his voice. I’ve enjoyed plenty of his work before but this felt like a stronger, more in focus work. If it were a whisky it’d be cask strength.
There are cats (a great many cats,) a mermaid, a Babylonian mathematician, the magic of numbers, a PI who doesn’t even have a bottle of whisky in his filing cabinet, dangerous women, climate change, witches, adventure on and below the high seas and lots, lots more. Gullen draws from the same well as Pratchett and Adams (think Good Omens and Dirk Gently but at a tangent) but in as unique a voice as theirs.
He spins a lot of plates in this and at first they seem to be plates from different kitchens and impossible to match but like a master artist he draws the disparate elements together so that they make a pleasing whole in a pattern that is both unexpected and yet wholly inevitable. I’m impressed (as I always am when other people can make plotting seem effortless as it takes me a lot of work) and eagerly wait to see what Gullen does next.