CALL OF SHADOWS
By David C.Smith
Airship 27 Producitons
Guest Reviewer - Joe Bonadonna
CALL OF SHADOWS is a tough, dark, very film noirish story. The main character is David Ehlert, a world-weary soul who comes to the aid of newly widowed Ava Beaudine, who is caught in a deadly game being played by her late husband's business partner, the slimy Tony Jasco. But what sets this modern-day thriller tale apart from your usual tale of gangsters and murder is that Ehlert is a powerful wizard born in 1886 but who looks to be in his mid-to-late 30s. And so, what you might think is going to be the usual web of intrigue and murderous intent, suddenly turns into an even nastier, sinister plot involving dark sorcery and one sick, twisted magician.
Ehlert is a haunted man, and the story behind the ghost who haunts him is a tale of true, heart-breaking tragedy. I can't talk too much about this novel without spoiling the surprises -- and boy, there are surprises on almost every page. Just when you think you have it all figured out, when you're sure you know where the story is going, Dave Smith makes a sharp turn to the left and takes you on a detour through the shadowy streets of magic, mystery, and mayhem. The wizard Ehlert is the kind of anti-hero we don't see too much of nowadays: elegant, quietly confident, and all-too dangerous. He's not an over-the-top, flamboyant pretty boy tossing off one-liners and worn-out cliches with a smarminess that would make Hollywood proud. Oh, no. His sense of humor is subtle and dry, but this guy is also as dark as he is unassuming. This is urban fantasy for adults. This is what Harry Potter might have grown up to become if he lived in a more realistic world and had tragedy scarred his soul, instead of his forehead. Ehlert stands right up there, shoulder to shoulder, with Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, and all the great characters right out of Black Mask, Weird Tales, and the Golden Age of Pulp Fiction. Ehlert is a man with a past veiled in shadow, and a future that is just this side of grim: he's a man caught in a present that doesn't quite seem suited to him. And the tragedy of his life, the one thing that keeps him going, that gives his life purpose, is the soul of this novel.
But for me, the heart of this novel is the lovely, the endearing and unforgettable Ava Beaudine. Once you meet her, you'll never forget her. She'll steal your heart while Ehlert battles to keep evil forces from stealing her life, as well as her soul.
This is a taut, excellent thriller, with crisp dialogue, solid characterizations, hard-hitting prose, explosive and violent action, and a plot that'll keep you guessing and turning the pages. I'm reading it for the fourth time. Give it a shot -- you may find yourself reading it more than twice!