by C.J. Henderson
Cover Artist: Chris Cocozza
Review by Cathy Green
Tor Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765320834
Date: 05 January 2010 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Henderson's book opens with an overview of the legendary, ancient, now destroyed and lost city of Memak'tori and Dr Ashur Ungari's archaeological dig in Syria to discover the city. Before the reader can start wondering too much about why she or he is reading about a lost city in Syria when the title clearly promised Brooklyn, the scene switches quickly to the observation deck of the Empire State building where Dr. Piers Knight, curator at the Brooklyn Museum, is introducing his new intern Brigit Elkins, late of Montana and graduate school in Chicago, to New York City.
Having received a call from Dr. Ungari announcing that he's coming to the Museum to view the Dream Stone, which will function as a Rosetta Stone for the materials unearthed at Memak'tori, Piers decides to treat Brigit to dinner at his favorite Japanese restaurant and then swing by the Brooklyn Museum to prepare for the meeting and get the Dream Stone out of storage. That's when things start to go wrong in very interesting ways.
When they get to the Museum, the expected guard is not at his post and Piers and Brigit soon discover that the Museum is being robbed and that thieves are stealing the Dream Stone. At this point, Prof. Knight is revealed to be more than just an academic and curator as he uses magic to foil the robbery. Unfortunately, the thieves kill themselves by blowing themselves up with grenades, which makes it a bit difficult to find out for whom they were working. And that sort of thing also tends to attract the attention of the police, so Brigit ends up spending her first night in NYC at a police station being grilled by a couple detectives.
Since the novel is nominally set in the real world and post-9/11, the attempted theft of Middle Eastern objects also attracts the attention of the FBI and Homeland Security, particularly since Dr. Ungari's dig was sponsored by the Syrian government and when he shows up at the Brooklyn Museum, he's accompanied by the sort of embassy attache that's generally assumed to be a spy. It soon becomes clear that very dangerous, very powerful non-human forces are behind the attempted theft and the fate of the world rests in the hands of Prof. Knight and Brigit.
Some very powerful eldritch forces are (a) taking an interest in the Dream Stone and (b) trying to break through to our world, which can never be good. Along the way an NYPD precinct house and most of Fort Drum are destroyed before the final showdown in GreenWood Cemetary.
Henderson has set up an interesting system of magic and also follows the principle that it is scarier not to know exactly what the unspeakable Lovecraftian forces are, while still making it perfectly clear that the fate of the world is at stake. Henderson has fun with his system of magic, such as when Piers Knight uses magic to eavesdrop on people's thoughts, and he's stuck with their thoughts, relevant or not, for a fixed period of time.
Also, all the Brooklyn locations are real. Not just the major landmarks such as Green Wood Cemetery and the Brooklyn Museum but the restaurants as well, which lends the novel a sense of authenticity. Given that the Brooklyn Museum is often treated as the red-headed stepchild in comparison with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, despite the breadth and depth of the collection, it's nice to see a bit of borough pride with the setting.
The bantering relationship between Piers and Brigit is delightful, albeit a bit old-fashioned, like in the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s. The combination of the Piers-Brigit relationship plus the Lovecraftian forces that they are battling produces a result that one might expect had Hammer Studios hired Ernest Lubitsch to direct one of their movies.
I also liked the fact that Brigit's first reaction to the situation is to be disconcerted and upset. After all, Prof. Knight already was aware that magic and dark forces existed; Brigit had no idea and her first night in NYC five guy get blown to bloody bits right in front of her and a mysterious energy creature nearly burns down a police station. Upset is a natural response under the circumstances. And even Prof. Knight gets a bit wigged out the first time they go to Green Wood Cemetery and they encounter a ghost and get attacked from above by killer lightening. I also liked the fact that Brigit makes a key discovery by doing what interns are supposed to do - research in the dusty records in the bowels of the museum.
Brooklyn Knight offers a nice blend of humor and horror. It's a fun urban fantasy that will make ideal beach or pool-side reading. I'm looking forward to the sequel.