Looking for a quick read this Halloween? Say, about 30 pages? Then, might I suggest Fixing Mr. Styx by Geoffrey Thorne. It's a paranormal urban fantasy where demons and magic are real and a high priced gopher, I mean "procurement specialist," finally gets the one job that will make or break… the world as we know it.
Mr. Styx, an alias for our protagonist, Sherman, finds "things" for his clients. Typically they're magic items, but sometimes he solves missing persons cases. Unfortunately, these are people who would prefer to stay missing. While he won't get his hands bloody, his conscience looks the other way if his clients make a mess of the mark. When we meet Sherman, he's in his favorite diner (not so much for the food as it is for the plethora of exits) being offered a job he's not allowed to refuse by a couple of lineman-sized thugs who are far more sinister than they appear to be.
Despite all of Sherman's flaws, Thorne makes him out to be a likable character. He's aware of his moral shortcomings, but acknowledges they're necessary for survival in the line of work he's in. Thorne spends a good deal of time exploring Sherman's character and reveals how he came to be the man he is. While on the surface, he resembles a Gen X version of the hard-nosed detective of many a pulp fiction story, underneath there's a vulnerability that belies that exterior.
Thorne's writing style makes for an entertaining read. To add to the almost noir-like atmosphere, he pours on the similes and metaphors like syrup over a steaming fresh stack of blueberry pancakes. Mmmmmm. It fits in well with establishing Sherman's character, his clients and the grim city he lives in.
As for the technicals, there are several typos. They were easy enough to find and could easily have been eliminated if a second set of eyes had gone over the manuscript before publishing. However, none of them were bad enough to detract from the story. Small bumps in the road as it were.
I understand that this is the third story in Thorne's "Grim Arcana" series. I'm not sure what the other titles are but you don't need to have read them to enjoy this story, though I suspect you'll want to. With Fixing Mr. Styx, I feel like we've come in at the end of a story, and I'm left wanting to know how we got here. Only in Resident Evil can you have a sequel to "Apocalypse." Thorne throws us enough bones to want to read more about Sherman's past exploits that led up to this encounter. A novel, or a collection of novellas, highlighting his misadventures in expanded form is what I'd like to see.
All-in-all, Fixing Mr. Styx is a highly enjoyable excursion into a dangerous world that exists just outside the corner of our eyes.
Fixing Mr. Styx is available for FREE from Smashwords as part of a Halloween promotion. Once the Day of the Dead rolls in, all bets are off.
Update 11/1/10: Got word from Mr. Thorne's editor that the typos were his fault, not Mr. Thorne's, and that they've been corrected.