I’m ashamed to admit this is the first book I’ve read by Kim Harrison. It certainly won’t be my last. Any fan of fantasy, especially urban fantasy, will like this first book in the Hollows series. It’s a great blend of our modern world mixed with a fantastical “what if”. What if bioengineering went horribly wrong and wiped out half the population on earth, allowing the vampires and witches and other fantastical creatures an entry into society? Why, governmental bureaucracy and death threats of course!

First line:”I stood in the shadows of a deserted shop front across from The Blood and Brew Pub, trying not to be obvious as I tugged my black leather pants back up where they belonged. This is pathetic, I thought, eyeing the rain-emptied street. I was way too good for this.” Love it, love it, love it. I’m immediately hooked, aren’t you? First, there’s the pub name which is beyond fabulous but then the picture of a girl in leather pants that don’t fit and the fact that she’s too good for..what exactly? Ah, that, my friends, is the basis for the entire story.

Mechanics: This one, like a lot of urban fantasy (and a lot of detective novels), is in first person. It gives the whole tale an intimate feel. It’s well written, with strong structure and pacing. The balance between dialogue and narrative description is dead on (no pun intended. OK, maybe a small one).

Voice: I really liked the easy voice on this. You get the put-upon feel of an under-appreciated worker, but she’s not snarky. She thinks she is, but isn’t. She’s just likable, someone I’d love to have as a friend. I’d also love to have some of her magic amulets, but I digress.

Characters:   I like the main character, Rachel, a lot. She’s tough, but not a hard-ass. She has some solid principles she absolutely will not cross, which makes me like her even more, but she’s far from perfect. In fact, she fails quite often, but in the face of failure she’s incredibly stubborn. She tries and tries again. I like that. Rachel is joined by Ivy, her vampire co-worker who scares her silly. Ivy is a stand-up girl; I can’t wait to find out more about her. The third member of the initial team is Jenks, a pixie. I kept picturing a cross between Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. What a fun sidekick! I love his entire family. Tons of kids and a wife who is more than strong enough to keep them all in check…more than your usual sidekick gets for sure. I found myself wishing I had pixies in my garden.

Plot: At the core, this is a good old fashioned mystery. A detective type character is trying to solve a riddle that will save her own life. What’s interesting is the twist near the end is never actually solved…it’s subplot for later stories. I have to confess, I’ll come back for the next book just to find out what happens. I won’t put plot spoilers here; I’ll just say it’s a solid, fun plot and that I enjoyed the ride. Our girl gets the stuffing kicked out of her time and time again and keeps coming back. The ending was satisfying and enticed me to read the next book.

I think the only thing I didn’t like about the entire story was the word Inderlander, used for witches/vampires/people who live on THAT side of things. I never understood where the name came from, and it never sat well with me. It reminded me of Underland, from the new Alice in Wonderland. That’s not the author’s fault, as she wrote hers first (I think). It’s a minor thing, so don’t let it stop you. I’d be curious to know if anyone else found it an issue.

I liked the way this story included vampires, but they weren’t the central focus. I also liked the mix of fights, dark moments and lighter moments. In the end the whole thing felt like a cozy mystery, with some blood shed, and a magical twist. If you like urban fantasy, it’s a fun read for a rainy afternoon.