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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Mob Rules" by Cameron Haley (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Visit Cameron Haley's Official Website Here
Order Mob Rules from Amazon Here

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Cameron Haley is a Pseudonym for Greg Benage. He lives in Minneapolis with his family. He’s a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Tulane University with a degree in Political Economy. He currently works a senior product manager in US Bank. Previously Greg worked as a managing editor and product development executive in the publishing industry for more than six years and has more than 14 years of experience in commercial writing and business communications. He’s previously freelanced as a copywriter before focusing his energy into writing, this is his debut.

PLOT SUMMARY: As LA plunges into an occult gang war, mob sorceress Domino Riley must unravel a conspiracy that reaches beyond the magic-soaked mean streets into a world of myth and legend. Domino investigates the ritual execution of a mob associate, a graffiti magician named Jamal. The kid isn’t just dead, he’s been squeezed — the killer stole his magical power or “juice.” Domino summons Jamal’s shade, and the ghost points to Adan Rashan as his killer. This is tricky, because Adan is the favored son of Domino’s boss, Shanar Rashan, a six-thousand-year-old Sumerian wizard. It’s even trickier because only a mobbed-up sorcerer could have squeezed Jamal and Adan isn’t a sorcerer. As the corpses pile up, Domino must confront the killer and unmask an otherworldly kingpin with designs on her gang’s magic-rich turf.

FORMAT/INFO: Mob Rules is 313 pages long divided over fifteen numbered chapters, with no Prologue and Epilogue. Narration is in the first person and features Domino Riley as its sole voice. Mob Rules can be read as a standalone novel, but is the first volume in the “Underground Cycle” series. September 1, 2010 marked the North American trade paperback publication of Mob Rules via Luna Books.

Mob Rules is an Urban Fantasy novel set in a contemporary Los Angeles.

ANALYSIS: Mob Rules was brought to my notice via a friend on the Goodreads website. As soon as I read the blurb I decided to give it a shot. I contacted Greg asking for the same and he promptly sent me a review copy. The story is set in Los Angeles and features a world wherein magic is present and it has been utilized to set up a feudalistic crime structure which has led to various US cities being divided up by gangs. Dominica “Domino” Riley is a Mexican-Irish member of one such gang which is situated in South Central part of LA. Its lead by a Sumerian wizard turned gang lord called Shanar Rashan.

Domino is the gang’s top enforcer who’s been personally handpicked by Shanar Rashan due to her ability to detect & manipulate “Juice” (magic as described in this world). She describes her work in the following way which sums it up nicely:

“Ninety-nine percent of my job is pretty simple. I’m a fixer, a problem solver. I make sure the outfit is operating as it should. When it isn’t, I step in and make the necessary adjustments. I have no day-to-day routine, no ongoing managerial responsibilities. It’s a nice gig!”

The book begins with Domino being called in to investigate the murder of Jamal James, a Juice tagger (collector) for the organization. She finds the crucified & skinned corpse and then tries to contact Jamal’s spirit for finding the killer’s identity. However she is unable to get a smooth connection before Jamal’s spirit disappears. Domino’s powers while arcane are smoothly connected with the technology of the present world, Domino uses her spells via the internet (I found this to be a very cool interpretation of magic). Her search efforts don’t pan out the way as envisioned and so she decides to hit the streets to find out about Jamal’s recent activities. She finds out that he’s been seen in a rival gang’s club called The Cannibal Club so she proceeds to the club and is surprised to find Adan, Rashan’s son over there. He admits to have seen Jamal a few times however Adan is a non-magical person and amongst his posse is a vampire who reeks the wrong way and soon gets into a fight with Domino. She makes short work of him and delivers deadpan humour at the same time.

Next day Domino meets up with Rashan to discuss the possibilities of forthcoming war with the rival gang of Papa Danwe. She learns that there’s been another death in a similar skinned fashion however the person was magically different from Jamal. Rashan & Domino set their plans for meeting with the neighboring Russian & Korean gangs to discuss an alliance and also find out who will be the next target. Also at the same time Domino is getting some romantic signals from Adan and finds herself attracted to him as well. She also then decides to hire the help of a pixie named Honey to facilitate her search; however Honey seems to be more interested in Domino than finding other things. Thus the plot then escalates as she races against time to find out who is hitting upon their gang and also to save her own skin as the general consensus is that they might have a betrayer amongst them.

Mob Rules is a slightly darker version of the UF stories being put out. The world settings are pretty gritty & and the protagonist is a Mob enforcer. One whose conscience is regularly bended to benefit her position and her job. Domino Riley makes an exciting protagonist to read about as she’s tough and ruthless and she understands Shanar’s cardinal mob rule “Survive, pick a side and do whatever it takes to win!” It’s a rule wherein the strong survive and they continue to stay strong by crushing all possible opposition and one which Domino thoroughly espouses.

Greg also combines crime and magic to gives the readers a potent combo in the tale settings. The city of LA is very realistically described and adds to the ambiance of the story. Also adding to the reading experience is the plot twist in the latter half of the tale, the story veers off from where the reader thinks it might be heading into a slightly different direction. Another distinct plus point is the way the author has manifested magic within the contemporary settings for example the combining of magic with the internet for Domino, the presence of Genies who aren’t as helpful as the stories foretell & magic with its relation to crime for eg. Vampires being blood magicians, prostitution being sex magic, etc. This was a very apt way to merge both genres of crime fiction and Urban fantasy & so full marks to the author on this front.

Now onto the drawbacks, the story manages to lose steam in the middle third part where Domino is running blind and trying to figure out the mastermind behind the attacks. The tale drags a bit before rushing on to the climax and all its revelations. Also Domino’s past is hinted at but never properly explored [This I believe could covered in the prequel short story Retribution in the Harvest Moon anthology] also this is the first book so it pretty much serves as a set up for the future stories namely Skeleton Crew which will be released next year. Overall a good debut effort and Cameron Haley marks himself out amongst the UF crowd with this dark tale and with a promise of more mayhem to come in the form of zombies in next year’s Skeleton Crew.


Unknown said...

Thank you for the great review & bringing this author & book to my attention.
All the best,

Stephanie Lorée said...

Never heard of this, sounds awesome though. Thanks for doing these kinds of reviews and bringing to attention lesser known authors.

The Reader said...

@ RKC & Mesmerix

Thank you for your kind words, I hope you enjoy the book.


Bastard said...

Really looking forward to this one. Will probably get it towards December, maybe early next year. But it does seem like the type of UF that I want to read.


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