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Shadows in the Darkness (Changeling) by Elaine Cunningham
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 076530970X
Date: 01 October, 2004 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Hired by a socially respectable family to find their missing daughter, Gwen's investigation leads her to a social club and several other missing teenage girls. The girl's father becomes an object of her suspicion, especially when he takes steps to fire her off the case. That might not seem so strange, except that the investigation is turning up odd things about Gwen's own mysterious, troubled past-- and seems to be triggering bizarre paranormal abilities she never suspected.

Going undercover at a strip club, Gwen trades on her own unnaturally youthful looks (she's in her thirties but looks like a teenager) and digs up information about the social club and its members. Her clients aren't the first to have a daughter go missing, but it becomes obvious that the club has tremendous influence when the police chief files a fake report to cover the father's lies.

But where does Ian Forest, the shady and seemingly ageless businessman who runs the club, fit into all this? And how does he know things about Gwen's past she never knew?

The story clears up a bit when Forest reveals Gwen is a member of the Elder Races, who are the basis for stories of faerie folk. They have abilities that Gwen has only just started to discover-- and their business interests run the gamut from legal to deeply criminal.

In tracking the missing girl, Gwen faces off against three half-insane criminals from her days as a cop. To survive, she'll have to depend on those brand new abilities, 'cause if they fail her, Gwen and the girl she's sworn to save are dead.

Elaine Cunningham has made a name for herself in genre fiction, writing for TSR/Wizards of the Coast. This new book, the first in a series, represents a break from working in other creators' worlds and is a pretty darn good urban fantasy. The workings of the Elder Races are murky at this point, but a reader may expect that this will develop slowly but steadily; no writer wants to give away all the answers. There are threads dropped for ongoing stories, with plenty of potential for more.

Cunningham writes with assurance and a sharp eye for place and character both. Gwen mixes world-weary cynicism with moral outrage, in the best private eye tradition. She'll fit comfortably on a bookshelf next to Anita Blake and Harry Dresden.

Recommended.

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