Pinnacle City: A Superhero Noir
By Matt Carter and Fiona J.R. Titchenell
Talos Press, 2018

Pinnacle City is, as the subtitle suggests, a work of superhero fiction crossed with detective fiction -- although the superhero aspect dominates. The general tone of the novel is similar to Matt Carter's previous work, Almost Infamous, although unless you are a fan of superhero fiction that probably will not mean much to you.

Eddie Enriquez is a permanently down-on-his luck detective, very much of the hardboiled detective tradition. His job is made both easier and harder in that he is a low-ranking super (but not a hero). He has the power to see the history of an object just by touching it, which turns out to be an extremely useful talent for a private detective. He also, as a teenager, made the youthful mistake of signing on as a supervillain's henchman, which pretty much ruined his life; in the eyes of society he's just one step up from a mutant or a Lumerian. The police and the superheros would be harassing him even if he wasn't poking his nose into their business, and he's about to make things a thousand times worse.

Meanwhile, Kimberly Kline, a.k.a. Glitter Girl, is an up-and-coming young superhero who is just moving up from the small leagues to join the Pinnacle City Guardians -- the elite group of superheroes that protect the city from the evils of the world. This is pretty exciting, but as the new kid she gets the worst job, protecting mayor Card and his family from probably-imagined assassins. It quickly becomes apparent that there's no real threat, and the mayor wants her presence primarily as a ratings boost to the reality show built around his family -- à la the Kardashians. It soon becomes apparent that Card's over-the-top devil-may-care attitude and off-the-cuff offensiveness is not an act that he puts on for TV, and he and his family are mixed up in some highly illegal activities.

Eddie hates superheros, and superheros hate Eddie, but when one of Kimberly's friends is murdered... well, let's not pretend that I can explain the plot. Eddie and Kimberly accidently have a one-night stand, but end up working together because Eddie is hired under false pretenses to investigate the death of one of Kimberly's rich philanthropic friends and she rescues him when he gets caught by the local drug lord while trying to save one of the murderers from assassination by said drug lord. And that's a simplification. Of the set up. Things escalate from there.

This is a fun and fast moving -- but also rather dark -- superhero story. It is not always well-written, and there is a strong element of soap opera to some of the scenes, and the authors have an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink philosophy of world building, but it's never boring. It is very much a satirical mirror of the Trump-era political scene, with mayor Card whipping up the masses with fears of immigrants and mutants, populist protests against police violence, and the big supervillain being named, appropriately, Milgram. If you like dystopias and bickering superheroes written with a sense of humor, give it a try.

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