I sort of reviewed Keith Hartman's The Gumshoe, The Witch, And the Virtual Corpse (as well as its follow up, The Gumshoe Gorilla) way back in 2013, but a January slow down in library book has afforded me the opportunity to re-read the duology. (I have a few quintets I'd like to re-read as well, but quintets are much more of a time sink.)
The year is 2024, in a week that ends with a Friday the 13th. We start on a Sunday evening, with one of our narrators (Drew, who's chapters get listed as "The Gumshoe") on a case, trying to figure out if his clients fiance is gay or not. When the client shows up on the stake out, it gives us a chance to examine America in the mid-20's, with Atlanta being a microcosm of the nation. We hear of the genetic test for homosexuality, which leads to an uptick in abortions in all populations other than Catholics. ("'You gotta love the Pope. She may be a reactionary old cow, but at least she's consistent.'") Most populations have managed to segregate themselves, with the gays taking over midtown, and the Southern Baptists occupying northern Cobb County. The client's fiance works for Rev. Zachariah Stonewall, one of Georgia's senators from the Christian Alliance party.
As the scene plays out, with the client following Drew up to her fiance's hotel room in DC to see if he's doing bad things with Drew's sidekick Daniel, we cut to "The artist", James Calerant, an artist with a sordid past. In this section, Calerant is at a grant performace surrounded by other artists showing off what they did with their money. (This included Foy Kucu rolling around in frosting and sprinkles while screaming racial epithets.) Calerant's performance for the evening (before which we get an overview of artistic politics) involves an old painting he bought from a museum where it had been languishing in a basement for 50 years. He sets it on fire, giving it meaning by destroying it. Then we cut back to Drew, who's client has pulled a gun on her fiance after finding him in the act. Drew takes a hit to the head and starts seeing thing right in the middle of the ensuing fight.
And from there we're off. We meet Megan, "The Police", who gets woken up to investigate a vandalism case in a graveyard. Given she's Special Investigations, she resents this, until she gets there and finds out the case involves a corpse exhumed and set up in what appears to be a Satanic ritual of some sort. We meet Ice-In-Summer, "The Lunatic", Cherokee shaman who's looking for her replacement, as she approaches the courthouse for a hearing about Raging Grizzly's "Ghost Dance" that wound up in a shootout between the Cherokee and the Baptists. We meet Benji, "The Chosen One", a young Baptist boy who writes an underground comic. We meet Justin, "The Singer", who just one best Male Artists at the Christian Music awards, and who's trying to bring down Stonewall. We meet Holly, "The Witch", who writes for a Wiccan newssite, and who's daughter becomes involved with Benji.
The story gets more involved and interrelated as 3 murders happen as well as an act of terrorism at a family planning clinic. As the clock winds slowly towards Friday the 13th, tensions ramp up between all the communities and violence breaks out among them. We find out who Benji's real parents are and why he's being chased by Men In Black Suits, we find out why Ice-In-summer believes her time is nigh. We go with Drew on his shamanic hero's journey and enjoy his frustration with one of the archetypes he encounters on the way. (A giant turtle who tries to get him to journey over water and enter the underworld. Said turtle starts quoting Joseph Campbell before Drew finally takes matters into his own hands.)
And ultimately, we find out who started the Satanic Panic and why. And why "In order to save something, you must destroy it."
It's by far one of my favorite books of all time, one that I've bought for a few people and recommended to several others. I think the mix of Sci-fi, urban fantasy, magical realism, and just plain humor is a heady mix, frosted with themes that are close to my heart, was just what I needed to get 2016 off to a good start.