4 / 5 Stars
A gritty, film-noir-style exploration of the supernatural; blended seamlessly with cocktails.
First off - what a concept. The spirits of the underworld meet the spirits in your cocktail glass... nice touch! I was intrigued to see whether or not the author could carry off such a 'way out there' idea, and for the most part, he carried it off with total panache.
Firstly, let's summarise. The book focuses on Thomas 'Awkward' Dante, a bartender who also has some serious supernatural talents. It turns out that you might not want to consume a drink mixed by Awkward; unless you're happy to disappear, spill your secrets or summon up ghosts...
Awkward is happy minding his own business until a guy gets murdered in his bar (you guessed it, by cocktail). After this grisly event, he then finds himself mired in a classic murder mystery situation, with villains aplenty hunting him down, and plenty of twists and turns.
What did I enjoy most about this book? Undoubtedly Awkward himself. He reminded me of Gittes from Chinatown- jaded, cynical but ultimately effective. He's supported by a host of inventive, entertaining characters; such as the frightening Marinette (is she a gorgeous female or a hideous old bird thing?), Nick Noir (a vampire with an ambiguous past) and a wealth of other supernatural creatures; including plenty of alarming reptiles.
The whole concept was enormously fun too. When I first considered it, I thought it would be a tough one to carry off without diving into silliness. However, the author handles it with just the right balance; mostly with utter conviction, but with a wry nod to humour from time to time. I loved the idea of each cocktail mix being able to give the drinker different powers too - very creative.
My only minor criticism is that the book is very jam-packed with action. There were a few occasions when I would have appreciated a more retrospective section, just to let me process everything that had happened. However, this is probably just a matter of taste - if you like your books fast-paced, this is right up your avenue.
Overall, very enjoyable indeed - I look forward to reading more from Mr Feldmar!