Vermilion by Molly Tanzer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When boys from Chinatown vanish mysteriously, psychopomp Lou Merriweather gets drawn into the mystery, leading her into the Colorado mountains, to the sanatorium of the mysterious Doctor Panacea. What is Doctor Panacea's connection to the missing Chinese men and what is his true goal?
I've made no secret to the fact that I have a weakness for fiction from the strange wavelengths of the spectrum. When I caught wind of a weird western mystery featuring a half-Chinese psychopomp passing as a man, I was medically unable to pass it up.
Lou Merriweather is a psychopomp, a person who helps reluctant undead on their way to the afterlife by giving them a metaphysical kick in the ass. Lou hooked me right away with her attitude. She's got much more in common with the wisecracking PI of noir books than she does most supernatural characters. Her conflict with her mother, feelings for her friend Bo Wong, and grief for her deceased psychopomp father make her a very well rounded character.
I don't want to give away too much about the plot. I will say that I loved that Lou met people of all stripes on her journey, including talking bears, a lesbian, a hermaphrodite, and various other interesting beings, supernatural or otherwise.
The first thirty percent of the book was dynamite. I thought the middle bogged down a bit but things picked up near the end. I wasn't completely happy with the end but I'm glad the opening for future Lou Merriweather books was left open. The writing was even better than I expected. I enjoyed the modern dialogue and the story, while dark at times, was peppered with humor.
While it wasn't as pants-shittingly awesome as I was hoping, it was still a fun read and I'll be thrilled to revisit Lou Merriweather in another book. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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