BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Private detective John Justin Mallory is hired to find a missing Dragon in an alternate, urban fantasy Manhattan.
PROS: Mallory is a great character; the book doesn’t take itself seriously; dialogue-driven plot is played for laughs.
CONS: Some of wisecracks are corny.
BOTTOM LINE: This book (and the series overall) are consistently entertaining.
If you have read any of Mike Resnick’s previous John Justin Mallory novels (Stalking the Unicorn and Stalking the Vampire), you can expect something equally entertaining with the latest book in the series, Stalking the Dragon. If you haven’t read those stories before – and you can really start anywhere in the series — you can expect humorous urban fantasy in a swift moving story that reads like a Marx Brothers script.
John Justin Mallory is a private detective who resides in an alternate Manhattan — one populated with all the creatures we know from fantasy novels: goblins, elves, dragons, unicorns, vampires, and even zombies. His current case is to locate a missing dragon. This particular dragon, who goes by the name Fluffy, is a “toy” dragon, a small dragon that participates in pet shows. And not only does the owner want the dragon found, so does Mallory’s arch-nemesis, the all-powerful Grundy.
The story sees is Mallory following a simple series of clues and hunches towards his goal. As in previous books, he is accompanied by his partner, Colonel Winifred Carruthers (the only competent one besides Mallory), and a handful of inept assistants, like the cat girl named Felina, a gremlin names Jeeves, a zombie named Dugan, and an amorous mobile phone (yes, you read that right) named Belle. Mostly, the assistants are there for laughs, but that is the point of this novel after all. (I wasn’t kidding about the Marx Brothers similarity. In fact, as if to assert my belief, the famous comedians even make an appearance in the story.) Resnick is not concerned so much with complex plotting and deep, meaningful fiction here; he’s playing the story for humor and doing it successfully, with only the occasional joke on the wrong side of corny.
But Mallory is a great character and makes up for any shortcomings. He’s competent, self-assured and not afraid to get snarky with those around him. The large majority of Mallory’s assistants, meanwhile, play the humor-generating incompetents who offer little help, turn conversations into Vaudeville acts, and pun their way from one scene to the next. It’s obvious that the author was having lots of fun writing the story and that amusement is easily infectious.