I used to be a big paranormal reader. Heck, I was a huge Buffy fan back in the day and couldn’t get enough of vampire romances and werewolf love. I still read Patricia Briggs (werewolves) and try to catch up with Kim Harrison (you name it, it’s probably in there, but vampires are a strong element).
Now, however, I’m a little sick of going into the science fiction & fantasy section of my nearest bookstore and seeing endless covers of “strong-looking women” carrying a battle-ax, with a meaningful look in their eyes. Here’s two recent covers. Notice a family resemblance?
The books often are seeming a little “same-0ld, same-old” to me too (of course, your mileage may vary). It always seems like there’s a big inter-species war looming between the vampires and the humans, and the werewolves and the ghouls are taking sides, but the hot female heroine (who can be a human, shape-shifter, vampire, a demon, or a demon-hunter, etc., etc., etc.) always manages to keep her cool (and her cute vampire man).
It’s not that I don’t enjoy that plot, because I do (I can spend hours discoursing on whether Spike or Angel made a more suitable boyfriend for Buffy). But sometimes it’s nice to find something a little new and even a little different. Something that mixes the genre up a little. Doppelgangster by Laura Resnick, for example.
I have to say I’m a little disappointed with the cover. Esther Diamond, the main character, looks like she’s about to take over Manhattan with her mad scythe-wielding abilities.
That ain’t Esther. Esther’s a chorus girl in a not very successful musical. In fact, it’s just been canceled, and she’s had to go back to working a waitress job at Stella’s, a hangout for mob guys. She’s not connected to the mob (in fact she’s starting to date a cop, Detective Lopez), but the tips are good, and she gets to keep up her singing skills, as the waitresses are expected to belt out a few tunes to the customers.
One night, she sings a song for one of the more annoying customers, puts off his advances, and takes her tip and goes on with her night. Except that 20 minutes later, the same annoying customer comes in, acting like he hasn’t seen her all night and hadn’t just eaten his own weight in pasta.
Esther has met the mobster’s Doppelganger (double). And that’s not the only Doppelganger (or Doppelgangster, as a semi-retired mob guy who joins the investigation keeps mispronouncing it). To see your Doppelganger means that a curse has been placed upon you, and you will die within 24 hours. This promptly happens to several “connected” guys.
Esther, a wizard named Max, and a semi-retired mob hitman (who is a wonderful character) investigate, mostly because they happen to be in the area when weird stuff happens, and they’re also the ones that seem to believe that something out of the ordinary can happen.
This book, while it does have some deaths (of secondary characters), is the kind of book that makes you want to use the word “screwball comedy”. It’s sweet, light-natured, funny, and there’s not a vampire in sight, refreshingly.
Esther’s a continuing character. Her first book was Disappearing Nightly.
The title came out in 2005, and sadly seems to be out-of-print now, although you can certainly get the book through interlibrary loan through PALS. Hopefully, it’ll come back into print soon. Esther’s a character that I enjoyed so much 5 years ago that I immediately put a hold on the new book as soon as I saw it was coming out. She’s a fun character, not destined for vampire-slayer greatness, but she might still get her man in the end. Plus, she’s going to be a part of great, funny adventures.