Published 2008 337 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
“My brother had spent a lifetime – mine, at least – telling me that I was normal, that I wasn’t a monster. With his help, I’d finally realized that as long as I could remain who I was, I could survive what I was. It was only bad genes…”
Half-human Cal Leandros and his brother, Niko, aren’t exactly prospering with their preternatural detective agency. Who could have guessed that business could dry up in New York City, where vampires, trolls, and other creepy crawlies are all over the place?
But now there’s a new arrival in the Big Apple. A malevolent evil with ancient powers, dead-set on making history with an orgy of blood and murder, is picking off humans like sheep. And for Cal and Niko, this is one paycheck they’re going to have to earn… if they live long enough to collect it.
Madhouse is the third book in Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros urban fantasy series. Madhouse starts a few months after the events of Moonshine (the second book in the series) finished. While each story is fairly self-contained these books are part of a series with a long-running story arc so they are best read in order, starting with Nightlife.
Cal is the story’s main protagonist. He’s 20 years old and he is half human and half Auphe (or elf.) The Auphe are not dreamy, nature-loving elves though, they are pure evil and Cal’s description of them quickly dispels any doubts about their potential (Orlando Bloom) dreaminess. “The Auphe were what mythological elves would be if they were born in the ninth circle of hell and passed through the other eight on their way out. Because hell couldn’t hold them-nothing could. Most had pale, nearly transparent skin, pointed ears, molten red eyes, white filaments masquerading as the flow of hair and what seemed like a thousand needle-fine metal teeth. So fine that when they smiled, never a good occasion, you could see your hazy reflection.”
The story is narrated in first person by Cal and while his voice still has its lazy sardonic edge the narration is darker than previous novels as Cal fights against his evil Auphe inheritance. Cal is learning to make Auphe gates (rips in space and time) but with each gate comes killer headaches and insidious evil thoughts…
In Madhouse Cal and Niko are still working at getting their detective agency for New York’s hidden supernatural population off the ground. With a light case load they take whatever jobs they can get and the story opens with them negotiating a supernatural kidnapping case. Okay negotiating probably isn’t the right word since most of the kidnappers die at the point of Niko’s sword, or at the business end of Cal’s gun, but still.
Madhouse has a darker feel than the previous novels in this series. Death rampages through the story from start to finish and at times it seems that Niko and Cal just can’t possibly hope to prevail against the monsters that they are trying to kill. The main monster in this story is Sawney Beane, a re-animated cannibal mass murderer whose remains were liberated from the Met museum. Only this is no ordinary human monster, it actually happens that Sawney was a Redcap (a supernatural beastie that eats humans) and his reformed body is seemingly impossible to kill, because he’s already dead. Sawney’s mass-murder spree takes Cal and Niko through the choicest parts of the New York sewer system and into an abandoned Victorian insane asylum – both settings darkly horrific in their own way.
Robin, Cal and Niko’s friend and sidekick since they first made his acquaintance in Nightlife, narrowly survives several attempts on his life. Robin is surprising tight-lipped about the murder attempts and this mystery runs alongside the Sawney Beane storyline, throughout the book.
Madhouse is packed full of dark urban fantasy. Its widely varied population of mythological creatures, including my personal favourite - an undead Ancient Egyptian mummy pottering about in the basement of the Met museum (there just aren’t enough mummies in today’s fantasy fiction in my opinion) is enough to satisfy even the most demanding fantasy fan. Great characters and quality writing are just the icing on the cake.
Rob Thurman’s novels are recommended reading for urban fantasy fans - and Madhouse is the best in the series yet. Don’t just take my word for it, check it out for yourself!
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