Second installment in Shan's fantasy urban noir series (Procession of the Dead, 2010) set in an unnamed city ruled by fearsome gangster The Cardinal.
Reformed alcoholic Al Jeery is a loyal and respected but undistinguished member of the Troops, The Cardinal's private army. Seemingly by accident he is called to help remove the corpse of a murdered girl from a swanky hotel. To Al's horror he finds that the stabbed and mutilated body is that of his girlfriend, Nic Hornyak. Then The Cardinal summons Al, berating his lack of ambition despite his talents, and orders him to investigate. Assisted by his policeman buddy, Bill Casey, Al slogs through Nic's sordid sexual and mystical involvements, of which Al knew nothing, and discovers that she was last seen in the company of a man who resembles Paucar Wami, the eerie, elusive assassin who kills as he pleases and owes allegiance to nobody. Strangely, Al also learns that the body of the father he never knew is missing. Then one ghastly night Wami himself shows up, infuriated that Al has been mouthing off about a murder Wami definitely didn't commit. Wami, it emerges, is Al's father and proposes they investigate together. After much graphic, inordinately complicated and sometimes incoherent sleuthing, explanations of a sort finally arrive, but to readers unfamiliar with the previous book they won't mean much.
Chilly, grim and confusing, with not a sympathetic character in sight: Shan fans only need apply.