by Sharon Tucker
The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. —Bertrand Russell
Don’t look for much grit in Laura Resnick’s Urban Fantasies despite the fact that they have New York City as the backdrop. Oh, it isn’t that the streets aren’t mean and that the characters lack the infamous New Yorker’s brusqueness, rather it’s the fact that the stories are told in first person by heroine/actress/waitress/elf Esther Diamond who is nothing if not upbeat to the point of Micawberism. Even when she’s strung out over her never-quite-boyfriend Detective Connor Lopez or freaked about being unemployed, there is a strong positive undercurrent that tells readers she will triumph. Of course alliance with a 350-year-old Mage, Dr. Maximillian Zadok makes getting out of the scrapes Esther gets into much easier.
In Vamparazzi (2011) Esther is glorying in having found a solid gig costarring with a professional vampire in the stage adaptation of Dr. Polidori’s The Vampyre despite having trouble not getting punched out every night by his jealous fans. When one turns up exsanguinated, Esther gets more of an education into the truth about vampires than she ever wanted to have. Polterheist (2012) finds Esther with no acting job and no waitress job at Christmas time and still needing to pay her rent. Fortunately Fenster & Co.’s Department store needs elves for their seasonal, multi-cultural Solsticeland, and Esther is perfect and is reasonably happy in the role of their Jewish elf, Dreidel, until the toys sprout fangs and attack. No one is more surprised than Esther in Abracadaver (2014) when corpses start clambering out of their coffins and walking out of the funeral home owned by a prospective suitor.
Playing a major character in a sold out play is every actor’s dream but that is reckoning without flocks of costume-imitating, militant fans consumed with jealousy that Esther is the focus of pseudo-vampire Daemon Ravel’s attentions on-stage (and annoyingly off). Resnick’s take on vampire lore is more creative than that of most authors in the genre as are her heroine’s companions who fend off the forces of evil that frequently threaten the Big Apple. She always relies on Dr. Zadok (and his canine familiar, Nellie) for educated guesses, hands-on help and extensive knowledge of proper procedures, but in Vamparazzi Esther is also assisted by a hitherto unknown group just full of surprises for her and us. Now if she can just survive Daemon’s increasingly punitive advances, she may just make it to the end of the run.
As if the usual excess of Christmas were not enough, Polterheist finds Esther clad in blue and white as Dreidel the elf, culturally enriching the Christmas festivities at Fenster and Co.’s well-known but financially flagging department store. The difficulties start with a demon-haunted elevator, but soon the mayhem spreads to unpleasant personality changes in the personnel, attacking teddy bears with fangs and with dolls murderously wielding kitchen implements. Enter Dr. Zadok aided by character Lucky, the malaprop-spouting and sweet-natured former hitman we met in Doppelgangster (2010). We are spoiled for choice as to why the store’s merchandise trucks are hijacked and who is behind it since everyone in the rather nasty Fenster family is suspect but solving the malignant manifestations will require the help of our favorite mage of course and will certainly make Esther’s initial meeting with Lopez’s parents memorable.
Esther’s sporadic but recurring role on The Dirty Thirty television series does not endear her or anyone connected with the show to the NYPD since the show’s main plot element concerns the dirty deeds of corrupt police officers. Esther’s role as a bisexual junkie prostitute pays the rent after all and even better provides her with national exposure—though the character she plays is less than savory, or perhaps because of it. Here Esther’s on-again, off-again romance with Detective Connor Lopez is definitely off since she broke into his car a book back in The Misfortune Cookie (2013) to save him from a curse of death. Imagine explaining that to adamant non-believer Lopez. The plot complicates when Lopez takes on a new partner who has a strange vibe and a Chinese/Italian funeral home has trouble with resurrecting corpses.
These books are fun to read not only for the shenanigans Esther Diamond gets up to but also because she’s a strong, capable woman, the favorite heroine-type in Urban Fantasy. Esther may not have the supernatural abilities favored in UF heroines, but readers can readily sympathize with her worries about employment and paying the rent. I particularly like her gumption in the face of the unexplainable, palpable evil. Each book presents new supernatural phenomena which has been well-researched and imaginatively manifested. My only criticism is that some of the scenes are way over-the-top emotionally and do go on a bit too long, exacerbating this reader’s patience not to mention seriously getting on her nerves. That is of course easily remedied by carefully skipping just a few pages, but in Resnick’s defense this is problematic only in the first titles in the series. Her richly developed characters make up for these excesses as does the wealth of supernatural phenomena intelligently explored and explained with humor. Too, as surely as evil is variously presented, good is triumphant in the main character’s approach whether they are believers or non-believers. I hope more Ester Diamonds are in development. The last one was published in 2014, and I am getting impatient for Goldzilla with its TBA publication non-date.
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