No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, March 09, 2009

#15: Urban Shaman -- C E Murphy

I held my balance there ... the city revitalising me like fresh strong blood in my veins. Inside a breath I was a mugger, a fireman, a newborn, a dying man. The impatient roar of vehicles filled my ears, the city's lifeblood flowing from one place to another. Even the air was charged, electricity carried in the molecules along with particles of smog and dust. If I could carry this in me all the time, I would never be tired, never need to eat or breathe ... (p. 301)

January in Seattle. Returning from her mother's funeral, Joanne Walker looks out of the window of the plane and sees a woman fleeing a pack of dogs and a man with a knife. Enlisting the help of a cab-driver, she seeks out the scene of the attack -- only to find herself implicated in a series of supernaturally-motivated murders.

Luckily Joanne Walker -- also known as Siobhan Walkingstick -- has intriguingly mixed blood (Irish and Cherokee) and a powerful heritage of her own, never mind that she turned her back on all of it as a teenager with a secret tragedy ...

Jo's an interesting character: a cop who prefers to work in the garage, demoted to the beat, full of mechanical metaphors for her new shamanic awareness: It's like the whole world is a badly-tuned engine. I'm starting to feel when it misses or lurches. And I've got this stupid idea that I can fix it. (p. 120). She evokes strong reactions in those around her (though she doesn't seem to have any actual friends, unless you count cab-driver Gary who's instantly loyal, helpful etc despite being dragged off to a crime scene in the dark before dawn).

Urban Shaman blends Celtic myth (Cernunnos, Herne, the Wild Hunt) with Native American: Coyote, brick-red and golden-eyed, haunts Jo's dreams and has done for a long time. This was a fast, pacy read -- Murphy eschews the High Fantasy style in favour of gritty noirish thriller-type prose -- with some inventive variations on Celtic and shamanic themes.

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