With cigarette smoke rising from under a fedora, the murky cityscape in the background, and the scarlet feathered wings, The cover of Something More than Night screams angelic noir mystery.
From 2012 to 2014 I read Tad William’s excellent Bobby Dollar trilogy that kicks off with The Dirty Streets of Heaven. Bobby Dollar is the nickname of the angel Doloriel and the series is a mash up of noir mystery, urban fantasy, and angels. Something More than Night came out in 2013, the same year as the second Bobby Dollar book. It came home as a book club purchase and sat on the shelf for about five years due to the cover. At the time, I was in the middle of an excellent angelic noir and didn’t want to read another while waiting for book three to come out. As a result SMtN got forgotten about until skimming my shelves earlier this month.
It’s an okay book but two things drove me crazy while reading it and I almost gave up half way through. Of course, that was when the plot finally started to gain traction so I stuck with it. The first thing was the voice of one of the narrators. Bayliss is a minor angel that has been sticking around on Earth due to not wanting to be noticed by the bigger and more powerful forces of Heaven. He presents himself as a 1920s dime novel detective with language to match. Doll and twist for women, tight for getting drunk, pinked for getting murdered, iron or being rodded for guns. The heavy use of this lingo was off putting, perhaps because I would often have to re-read, and gain from context, what Bayliss was saying. As I got further into the book this became less of an issue as I knew the terms by then, but my annoyance didn’t change.
The other thing that was irritating was the word salad Ian Tregillis would throw at the reader.
The interior reality of Gabriel’s Magesterium burbled and shifted like convection currents in a star on the zaftig end of the main sequence. Because, I realized, that’s what they were. Dull dim light, from IR to X-ray, oozed past me like the wax in a million-mile lava lamp while carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen nuclei did little do-si-dos about my toes. Every bubble, every sizzle, every new nucleus, every photodissociation tagged something of interest to Gabriel. The heart of this star smelled of roses and musty libraries. Nuclear reactions unfolded with the calm susurration of solar wind upon Earth’s atmosphere, seeding cloud formation and rain. Convective cells furled about me with the low, slow, sonorous peal of cathedral bells mourning a monarch’s death. X-rays fizzled on my tongue like champagne bubbles; I loosened my tie, and felt the silky play of elemental gradients across my skin. Somewhere far below me, and just for a moment, the jangle of clashing nuclei became the faint chiming of as single silver bell.
I get that he was trying to impress how unknowable the realms and working of angels are to humans but it often felt a bit much.
If you can get past that there is an interesting mystery. The arch angel Gabriel is dead and lowly angel Bayliss has been unwillingly recruited to snoop around. Bayliss is not a reliable narrator. The dichotomy of heaven and earth is not what humanity assumes it to be. And newly created angel, Molly, stumbles along trying to figure out her place in the mystery Bayliss has thrust her into. An okay read but I would much more strongly recommend checking out The Dirty Streets of Heaven instead.