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Gay, Kelly: The Hour of Dust and Ashes (Charlie Madigan) (2011)

Cover art by Christian McGrath

Does Kelly Gay keep up her good work in The Hour of Dust and Ashes? Yes, she most definitely does. She has that rare ability of being able to keep her writing tight, very tight. That and her spelling and grammar helps the reader keep from being distracted. Add to that a pretty good plot, fun characters and talent and you have the flow.

Charlie Madigan is an interesting character. She is a believable woman in a fantastic yet believable world. Yes, this is all science fiction and fantasy, but the plot is about recognisable problems and her characters are flawed and gifted like the rest of us. Fanatics are fanatics and greed is greed.

Charlie suffers from a save-the-world-all-on-her-own syndrome. That makes it easy for her to take the blame for her sister’s ash addiction. It is true that Bryn got addicted to ash while helping Charlie out, but Charlie tends to forget that Bryn has her own will and this is creating trouble between the sisters.

When ash addicts begin taking their own lives, Charlie becomes desperate to make certain Bryn stays alive. Thus far the hunt for a cure has led nowhere. When Charlie goes to the oracle, Allessandra for help, she is told that she will need sylphs. On to Charbydon she must go and Hank and Rex get to go along with her.

Rex (the ex-jinn now revenant), Brimstone (the hellhound) and Hank (the Adonai) make themselves better known to us. We also get to see Charbydon at its best and worst. No wonder the people there think of Earth as a vacation spot.

We get tons of action and some of the fighting is explicit. If you don’t like that, consider yourself warned.

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My reviews on books 1 (The Better Part of Darkness), 2 (The Darkest Edge of Dawn), 3 (The Hour of Dust and Ashes), and 4 (Shadows Before the Sun)

Gay, Kelly: The Better Part of Darkness (Charlie Madigan) (2009)

Cover art by Christian McGrath

There is something about Charlie that I find appealing. Her life is a mess in so many respects, but she, herself, is a really decent person. Kelly’s writing is, of course, alpha and omega in making the series work and helping me like it. I find it amazing that this is actually Gay’s writing debut.

The Charlie Madigan series is an urban fantasy one. They are meant to entertain. There are issues that come up in the books that are important ones, but like most novels out there on the market this is for the general public and not an esoteric philosophical LSD audience (Ok, that might have been a bit mean).

As with a great deal of the other urban fantasies out there the Charlie Madigan has a male/female action team. Since both Hank and Charlie work together, have a bantering tone between them and look quite good – well …

In The Better Part of Darkness we find ourselves in an Atlanta city in a possible future where scientists have discovered two parallel planes of existence. Surprise, surprise, angels and demons do exist although not exactly in the heaven and hell version that we humans are so fond of. We have been visited by them for thousands of years and they have been using us and the earth as a battleground for working out their differences.

Now that humans know about them, we won’t put up with their nonsense any longer and have laid down the law for them. A police-department has been established dealing especially with extraterrestrials. They are called the ITF (Integration Task Force). Charlie Madigan is one of the officers working for the Department and her partner, Hank.

Pretty early on in The Better Part of Darkness, we find out that Charlie had a dead-then-alive experience that seems to be changing her physically.

Charlie’s partner, Hank, is a siren from Elysia. He has the kind of voice that needs to be dampened, otherwise men and women would throw themselves at his feet and do anything he asked of them. This comes in handy in police-work as people really want to tell him the truth.

Her daughter, Emma, is a highly intuitive child, one with a great degree of empathy. She goes to Hope Ridge, a school for rich kids. Charlie can’t afford it on her salary, but her ex-husband, Will, is paying for it.

When Charlie gets called to her daughters’ school (with her partner Hank) she becomes extremely worried. The victim is Emma’s old baby-sitter, Amanda Mott. At first thought dead, it turns out that Amanda is “just” in a coma of some kind. Making the situation a whole lot worse is the fact that there are several others who have been found like Amanda, and they have all died in the end. It seems all of them have been exposed to a new drug called “ash”. It’s extremely addictive and once it leaves a person’s system, they die.

This is the mystery Charlie and Hank are to investigate. As you might imagine unexpected twists and turns do appear. As stated above, Kelly Gay’s writing is of high quality and kept me reading until the end.


Awards/nominations

2009 SIBA Okra Pick
2010 SIBA Long List Book Award Finalist
2010 RITA finalist, Best First Book
2010 RITA finalist, Best Novel w/Romantic Elements


My reviews on books 1 (The Better Part of Darkness), 2 (The Darkest Edge of Dawn), 3 (The Hour of Dust and Ashes), and 4 (Shadows Before the Sun)