Book Review: Wake of the Bloody Angel

Wake of the Bloody Angelby Alex BledsoeTor, 2012New from Tor Books is the latest adventure of freelance swordsman Eddie LaCrosse, that inspired quasi-medieval Sam Spade homage dreamed up by author Alex Bledsoe. LaCrosse is a professional tough guy who gets twenty-five gold pieces a day, plus expenses - and like all his fictional freelance forebears, he has a hard exterior and a soft heart. Bledsoe is the author of many books of many kinds, but these Eddie LaCrosse fantasy adventure yarns are his most inviting work, a playful melange of Conan, Mike Hammer, and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.In this latest tale, one of LaCrosse's oldest friends - the wealthy tavern-keeper Angelina - hires Eddie to find out what happened to her long-lost lover, the pirate Black Edward Tew. The trail is very cold, but as Eddie reflects, he and Angelina have a relationship something "beyond siblings" - he can't bring himself to refuse.Readers of these novels will know something of what to expect in the pages that follow: sharp (often pungent) dialogue, some very juicy villains, and most of all, on virtually every page, Bledsoe's sure knack for tense action:

The Bloody Angel's crew scurried into their sails like monkeys, gathering the canvas and slowing the big vessel as it neared. They were slower then the Cow's crew, but then again, they were self-employed. She was a third larger than the Cow, and consequently her crew outnumbered us. I wasn't worried about that nearly so much as I was about having no real place to retreat. If my trap failed and they bottled us up on the Cow, all they had to do was set fire to us and watch us burn.

This is a new setting for our hero, and his learning-as-you-go is a big part of the allure of the book's second half. "An attack of conscience?" one brute yells at Eddie as the book is nearing its climax, "You'll never make it as a pirate, you know that? You're soft as a cookie fresh from the goddamned oven, that's what you are!"Fans can smile at lines like this, because they know better (and if you're not a fan of this series, by all means become one - you can start with this self-contained volume and catch up on the earlier ones at your leisure). Battered and worldly-wise as the conclusion to every LaCrosse adventure might be, but our hero somehow always prevails. Contrary to that pirate's imprecation, he's one tough cookie.