Meet Mookie Pearl; a lumbering beast of a man whose entire life is one big, violent nightmare. When he’s not crushing skulls on behalf of his boss, he’s trying not to get killed by all manner of unearthly creatures, including his own daughter, Nora. This is New York, but not as we know it, Jim [Star Trekkin’]. There are daemons lurking in the city’s shadows, and the only way to reveal their true appearance is by taking a blue drug known as cerulean. By rubbing it on the temples, its user is afforded a view of a concealed world and the entities that inhabit it, as well as being gifted with preternatural strength and healing powers. It’s one of five drugs known as the occulted pigments, though Mookie – and the people he works for – are dubious as to whether the other four actually exist.
When Mookie’s boss, Zoladski, calls a meeting to announce his retirement as head mobster, things start to go quickly awry. Casimir, the boss’s grandson, is given the unenviable task of taking over the firm, but when he’s murdered it’s up to Mookie and his partner to investigate before the rival gangs capitalise and start a war.
Mookie’s daughter is in more trouble than even he anticipated. She hates him with a passion and wants him dead just as much as the gangs do. Ultimately, Mookie realises he can trust nobody, and instead relies on his instinct, brute strength, and the cerulean to solve the mystery, kicking several shades of shit out of anyone standing in his way.
If you’re familiar with Wendig’s previous work you will go into this knowing exactly what to expect: Action, profanity and kick-ass characters. Where Mockingbird and Blackbirds gently prodded at the supernatural with a blunt stick, The Blue Blazes caves its head in with a baseball bat before going to town on it with a blowtorch. There are Gobbos, Blazeheads, Snakefaces, half-and-halfs, and that’s before Mookie begins his descent into the Great Below.
Despite the vast array of unsavoury characters on offer, this is very much Mookie’s story. Somewhere between Sin City’s Marv and Hellboy, Mookie grunts at people he likes and snarls at those he doesn’t, and yet there’s something very human about him. His failed relationship with his daughter eats him up inside, and the fact that he was once married gives us an idea that things were not always as bad as they are now. That’s not to say you’re going to fall in love with him; as with Wendig’s other antihero, Miriam Black, Mookie is rude, obnoxious, and liable to pummel your head clean off your shoulders if you so much as look at him the wrong way. Ron Perlman would have a blast playing the part if the film ever gets optioned for the big screen.
This is gritty urban fantasy as it should be done. Wendig has once again pulled that inimitable magic out of the bag and created something splendidly unique. The action is so thick at times that you might need to check you’re still breathing, and the twists keep on coming. So much fun that, like the five occulted pigments, it should be illegal.
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