Review: A Matter of Death and Life by Simon R. Green

Review: A Matter of Death and Life by Simon R. GreenA Matter of Death and Life (Gideon Sable #2) by Simon R. Green
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genres: paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Gideon Sable #2
Pages: 192
Published by Severn House Publishers on March 1, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads


Master thief, rogue and chancer Gideon Sable is back for another fast-paced supernatural heist - and this time he has the vault of a Las Vegas casino in his sights

Judi Rifkin is one of the world's most successful collectors of the weird and unnatural. In a London underworld filled with criminals with very special talents, Judi is a force to be reckoned with.
And Gideon Sable - thief, rogue and chancer - owes her a very large favour.
Judi makes him an offer he can't refuse: steal her the legendary Masque of Ra, tucked up safe in a Las Vegas casino, and she'll wipe the slate clean.
This isn't Gideon's first heist by a long shot. But with old grudges threatening to cloud his judgment, an unpredictable crew who don't entirely trust each other and a formidable supernatural security team guarding his target, this job might be a gamble too far . . .
A Matter of Death and Life is the sequel to The Best Thing You Can Steal, and is the second supernatural heist thriller featuring master conman Gideon Sable from British SFF veteran and New York Times bestselling author Simon R. Green.

My Review:

The snark is turned up past 11 and all the way to 13 in this second book in the author’s Gideon Sable series. But don’t let the indication that this is the second book in the series fool you into thinking that all you need to read to get completely up to speed is that first book, The Best Thing You Can Steal.

Not that it isn’t a whole lot of snarky fun.

But the thing about the author of this urban fantasy series – along with several others, a couple of paranormal series and some epic space opera – is that all of his stories are told in the first person singular voice of the main character – in this case Gideon Sable.

Whether that featured antihero – because honestly, none of them are exactly heroes in any classic mold whatsoever – is John Taylor (Nightside), Eddie Drood (Secret Histories) or a whole host of others, the truth is that the voice of the protagonist reads like its the voice of the author. Because they all more or less the same voice – with just a few minor variations.

Not that that’s a bad thing, because I like my snark dial turned all the way up. This is an author who always makes me laugh out loud because his snark – and his characters – are clever in their actions and especially in their way with words. And those characters are more often archetypes than actual individuals. For readers who are familiar with the author’s previous works, they are archetypes that seem very, very familiar. Like old friends that you can’t totally trust not to either break your heart or your bank account. Or both.

Most likely both.

All of the above means that he’s an acquired taste. He just happens to be a taste I acquired a long time ago. Just like my nostalgia for Cincinnati Chili. It’s not something I’d want all the time, or even too often too close together, but when I have a taste for it, nothing else will do.

And I definitely had a taste for it – the author, not the chili – this weekend.

The story in A Matter of Death and Life is a direct followup to the events in the first book, The Best Thing You Can Steal. Gideon and his girlfriend, Annie Anybody, are roped into committing a heist for the person they cheated in the earlier book.

This time, they have to steal a supernatural and extremely creepy mask from a Las Vegas casino. The mask is supposed to grant eternal life and youth. Gideon’s, well, let’s call her his patron, wants the mask in order to get one up on her ex-husband. Gideon wants to get his own back from the current owner of the mask. His patron also wants to get one up on him – and it sure seems like someone is manipulating them both.

It’s going to be the job from hell. And it might just send them all there – and possibly back again – before it’s over. One way or another.

Escape Rating B+: This is a story where I don’t have any mixed feelings. I had a cracking good time with Gideon Sable and his more-misfit-than-usual crew as they took on Las Vegas. Calling this book a fantastic, slightly supernatural version of Ocean’s Eleven – complete with ALL the wisecracks – would be more accurate, and more fun, than anyone might have expected.

Clearly, I had fun. In fact, I had laugh out loud fun. It helps that Las Vegas as the public sees it, the casinos, the glitz and the fake glamor hiding a rapacious money machine, is a setting that is just ripe for all of the snarkitude that Gideon Sable can muster.

It’s also a wheels within wheels within wheels kind of story. As much as the setting reminds me of Ocean’s Eleven, the caper itself just screams Leverage – but with a twist. With multiple twists, some with lime and some with cyanide – or something worse, creepier and deadlier.

Under the supernatural gloss, this is a story about power, greed, paranoia and revenge all tied up in a great big ball of wrong. It’s also a cat and mouse game where each character believes they are one of the cats – only to discover that they are one of the mice after all. And that the real cat has been preparing them for dinner the entire time.

But the characters, especially Gideon and his crew, are also more than a bit of an in-joke. A joke that the reader only gets if they are familiar with at least the author’s previous urban fantasy series. Because Gideon Sable used to be someone else, before the real Gideon Sable died and our protagonist assumed his identity. The author closed out all of his previous urban fantasy series with Night Fall back in 2018. But Gideon and his crew sound an awful lot like many of his previous bands of misfits. So it’s possible that Gideon in particular used to be part of one of those other stories – until he had to find another identity.

Which means that the whole setup of Gideon Sable’s twisted version of our world could be one we’ve already seen, and Gideon himself could be someone we’ve already met. A possibility that teases me no end. But probably would not resonate with someone who had not been previously exposed to this author’s brand of Gordian Knot worlds within worlds and shadows hidden behind shadows.

But when I’m in the mood for extreme snarkitude, there’s none better. Gideon Sable, and all of this author’s characters, have refined smart-assery into a fine art – and sometimes that’s just what a reader needs to get through. So I hope Gideon Sable will be back in the not too distant future.

Review: The Best Thing You Can Steal by Simon R Green

Review: The Best Thing You Can Steal by Simon R GreenThe Best Thing You Can Steal by Simon R. Green
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Gideon Sable #1
Pages: 192
Published by Severn House Publishers on April 6, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads


Welcome to London, but not as you know it. A place where magics and horror run free, wonders and miracles are everyday things, and the dark streets are full of very shadowy people . . .

Gideon Sable is a thief and a con man. He specializes in stealing the kind of things that can't normally be stolen. Like a ghost's clothes, or a photo from a country that never existed. He even stole his current identity. Who was he originally? Now, that would be telling. One thing's for sure though, he's not the bad guy. The people he steals from always have it coming. Gideon's planning a heist, to steal the only thing that matters from the worst man in the world. To get past his security, he's going to need a crew who can do the impossible . . . but luckily, he has the right people in mind. The Damned, the Ghost, the Wild Card . . . and his ex-girlfriend, Annie Anybody. A woman who can be anyone, with the power to make technology fall in love with her. If things go well, they'll all get what they want. And if they're lucky, they might not even die trying . . .

My Review:

Speaking of having the snark turned up to 11 – or at least something turned up to 11, so far this week we’re one for tension and two for snark with two books left to go – the snark is absolutely turned up to 11 and even past it in The Best Thing You Can Steal.

Even if snark isn’t exactly what this crew is out to nab. Then again, they don’t need any extra as they all have PLENTY of their own.

Considering the title, it’s not going to surprise anyone that this is a heist story. As the first book in a projected series, it’s the story of a man with a plan, in this case con man Gideon Sable, putting together a crew of “experts” to steal from the biggest and baddest collector who ever lived.

If that description sounds kind of familiar, it should. It’s the TV series Leverage, just set in a version of our world that’s hiding more than a few of the things that go bump in the night – even if none of them, so far, are any of the usual suspects.

So it’s Leverage, crossed with Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere – or really, definitely, mostly the author’s own Nightside. And possibly, eventually, every single other series Green has ever written.

Because he does that. Brings bits and pieces from everywhere and everywhen his imagination has ever been and cross-pollinates his other worlds with them. So even though this is the first book in a new series, there’s more than a bit of deja vu for anyone who has ever read any of the author’s previous work.

After all, Gideon Sable used to be someone else. So even though all of the author’s previous series except one all crashed, burned and ended together in a smoking pile at the close of Night Fall, the official last book of his Secret Histories, Nightside and Ghost Finders series, it’s entirely possible that Gideon Sable – and his on again/off again girlfriend Annie Anybody – used to be someone we used to know.

I can’t wait to find out.

Escape Rating A-: I’m inclined to believe that Simon R Green is an acquired taste. It’s just that it’s a taste I acquired a long time ago and never even tried to get over.

So even though this is the first book in this series – to the point where a reader who loves urban fantasy but has never read this author could start here and not feel like they missed anything. At the same time, it also FEELS like it could be dropped into any of his previous series. And quite possibly will be if it goes on long enough.

So this book is both different from his previous work and very much a piece of it all at the same time.

Like the protagonists in many, I think most of Green’s previous series, Gideon Sable isn’t so much telling the story from his first person perspective as he is narrating the story of his own life. Which in this case makes perfect sense, because he’s clearly playing a role rather than actually living a life.

Sable is as much an archetype as he is a character, but then so are all the members of his crew. The woman who is always pretending to be someone else because she can’t face herself, the man who has committed an act so evil that neither heaven nor hell will have him, the one who has taken the red pill but still lives in a blue pill world, and the ghost who can’t let go of his unfinished business.

And all of that is part of the way that this author creates and fills in the colors of his worlds. Where some series, like Murderbot for example, are so much fun because of the voice of a particular character, Green’s worlds all reflect the voice of the author himself. No matter who or what his characters are, all of Green’s protagonists speak in his very singular voice.

Although, while this story is filled to the brim and overflowing with the author’s trademark snark, I found the ending to be a bit more hopeful than his usual – along with the even lovelier promise of more to come.

So if you like the idea of a snark-sparked team coming together in order to pull off the caper of the century, Gideon Sable might just be your jam. It certainly is mine. At least until he steals it.