Author: Peter Bailey
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
Publication date: September 20, 2020
Genre: Mystery, Fantasy
One Sentence Summary: Detective Ray Fisher thinks the car accident that killed two criminals is an open and shut case, until his memory seems to be leading him astray…straight into a massive government conspiracy.
The Plot: Playing with Memories
Two cons walk into a building with a plan. Two cons exit the building and take a dive off a pier in their car. Two detectives are led straight to the door of the Sorensons, an older, extremely wealthy couple who own the building the cons walked into.
And then things get weird. What felt like an open and shut case is suddenly turned on its head when Detective Ray Fisher and his young, new partner Brad discover something really, really, really wrong with their memories. Now they’re on the run from their own people, hunting a secret that shouldn’t even be on their radar.
On it’s surface Rats in a Maze presents a fairly straightforward crime novel. Ray and Brad are investigating the suspicious deaths of two criminals no one would miss. As their investigation unravels, interesting things start to happen to them, leading them into a world they could never have imagined, one they shouldn’t even know about.
This was quite an interesting story with strong police procedural elements that somehow tied into fantasy elements. It felt like either the story couldn’t decide if it was mystery or fantasy and opted to fuse them, or it just developed a life of its own and ran away. The beginning and end of the story are a strange match, one that only makes sense if the whole book is centered around Ray. Otherwise, it’s a mystery that turns into an urban fantasy that just becomes scary. Overall, an interesting, not really quirky but definitely very different, story I can’t write further about because it’ll all be spoilers. But I do want to say the first half had a delightful gritty feel to it that I wish had been stronger as the story went on.
The Characters: An NYPD Detective
Rats in a Maze is Ray’s story. It revolves around him and his well-meaning, if sometimes misguided, ideas. He’s an older, experienced NYPD detective who is haunted by his past. He’s jaded, sarcastic at times, a bit short and impatient, but mostly pretty smart. He’ll do whatever he needs to in order to close a case. He grumpily accepts how the world works, but tries anyways. I liked him. He felt tired and worn out, but still strove to be one of NY’s Finest.
As Ray’s story, the reader gets an eagle eye view into how he thinks, how he works, and just how hard he tries. But there are other perspectives that are added in. They provided new angles to the story and to Ray that added to the tension. There weren’t too many, but each one added something to the story. I also liked that his interactions with each of the other characters said something more about Ray’s character while they also remained their own distinct character with their own ideas.
The Setting: Perfectly Matched to the Story
Rats in a Maze is one of those rare books I’ve come across that isn’t fantasy and manages to make the setting and the story work hand in hand. Set mostly in New York City, this novel takes full advantage of the massive breadth of the city, the crowds, the buildings, the constant stream of tourists, and even Grand Central. Without the city, the story loses something. It was brilliant and I loved everything about it. But it also takes place out on the road, in the middle of nowhere. It has a purpose. It feels stark and open, and perfectly appropriate to what was going on at that point in the story.
Overall: Surprise After Surprise
This was such a surprise! I had a hard time finding it on Amazon, and online in general. It’s just a little rough and could have been a bit more hard hitting and grittier, but really, really, really drew me in. I couldn’t stop reading. Then it shifted to something more in line with fantasy about halfway through. Then the ending happened and it was such a disconnect from the rest of the book and felt unnecessary. It was a little confusing, like the story had just taken on a life of it’s own and there was no stopping it. It was interesting, but I wish it had stayed on track with the investigation.
Great if you enjoy: detective fiction, genre blending, urban fantasy, mystery
Not great if you’re looking for: a single genre, predictable story, hard boiled crime fiction
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 cups should do
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Thank you to the author, Peter Bailey, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.