Dangerous Hardboiled Magicians
By Mel Gilden
The Borgo Press, 2010
Dangerous Hardboiled Magicians is a comic fantasy detective novel. As with many novels in the comic fantasy genre, it is not a literary masterpiece.
Turner Cronyn is your standard, run-of-the-mill gumshoe. Well, almost. He never seems to carry a gun, he's a fairly pleasant and happy person, and he lives in an alternate universe where magic is Big Business. Cronyn isn't much of a magician himself -- it's unnecessary in a world where every spell you might want is available in convenient over-the-counter form -- but he finds himself in deep magic when a board member of a local university hires him as a bodyguard to a bright young grad student. Her inventions are earning the school a good chunk of money, and the university is worried that some big magic company might try to steal her work... although no-one will tell Cronyn what that work may be.
Naturally, the bodyguarding turns out to be the tip of the iceberg, and soon it's a murder/zombie case, with roots going all the way back to Prohibition (of magic, in this universe, but with gangsters and all nonetheless). Also, there are Greek gods, pushy police, competing detectives, Mikado references, and all the things one usually expects from this sort of novel.
Gilden has written some pretty good humorous SF/F in the past, including a pleasing SF/F detective series, Surfing Samurai Robots. This book, however, was a disappointment. The world is not particularly compelling, the case not very compelling, and the connections in the case a bit too coincidentally convenient. It is a pleasant read, but not a great one. I would hesitate to recommend it anyone -- whether you are a Gilden fan, a humorous SF/F fan, or just normal, there are better books out there.
This is the first book in the Cronyn and Justice series, although at this point there is just one sequel, a novella entitled The Sea Was as wet as Could Be, available on Amazon for Kindle. The first 55 pages of Dangerous Hardboiled Magicians are available on Google Books, if you are curious.