Wednesday, January 19, 2011

REVIEW: Amberville, by Tim Davys

Amberville, by Tim Davys. Published 2009 by Harper. Fiction. Crime Fiction. Translated from the Swedish by Paul Norlen.

Eric Bear has a problem. A successful ad executive in Mollisan Town, married to the beautiful Emma Rabbit whom he passionately loves, it seems like he has it all. But when Nicholas Dove, local gang leader and casino owner, comes to him with an offer he can't refuse, he's forced to reconnect with his past and his secrets.

Amberville, the first in the Mollisan Town Quartet series of novels, takes place in a kind of alternate universe populated entirely by stuffed animals, thus Amberville is half noir, half fantasy. Tim Davys, the pseudonymous author, creates a strange and eerily familiar world in which all children are adopted, nearly every family is inter species and everyone is made of plush and stitches. Davys interlaces his world-building into the noir with a craftsman's hand- little touches here and there, nothing that overwhelms the story. And just as well, because the story is fairly light. Nicholas Dove tasks Eric with finding a mythical Death List, a list of animals who are taken away in mysterious pickups, never to be seen again, and taking Dove's name off the list. If Eric fails, Dove will have Emma killed. Eric recruits his old gang- TomTom Crow, Snake Marek, and Sam Gazelle- to help him.

But in Mollisan Town, everyone has secrets. Eric has a past, and a double; Emma has a secret life, too, and an interior self nobody knows. I like the way Davys constructs his strange little world and the plot unfolds smoothly, ticking off noir conventions without feeling stale or cliched. Having said that, I'm not sure the book would be all that interesting if not for the stuffed-animal angle; while I think the book is clever and a good mystery I'm not sure that's really enough. But, having said that, I am planning to read the three remaining books in the series, starting with the immediate follow-up Lanceheim which seems to have a completely different, and unrelated, plot. I would caution readers that even though Amberville is about stuffed animals, it's not a book for children and the characters, while fuzzy, are not adorable. There's violence, drugs, and other dark and disturbing things going on. Amberville probably won't end up being a classic of Western literature but it's a good read, and unusual, and a book I think lots of readers will enjoy. I look forward to more from this author and this series.

Rating: BACKLIST

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.