Bloodlines: Book 1 Empire City Special Crimes

Book Reviews / Friday, April 23rd, 2021

By: Peter Hartog
Genre: Dystopian Urban Fantasy, Science Fantasy, Crime/Techno Thriller
Publisher: Peter Hartog

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I received an eBook in exchange for an honest review from Storytellers on Tour

“No matter what century you live in, the world will always be filled with assholes” Tom “Doc” Holliday (Peter Hartog, Bloodlines)

Take a great detective named Tom “Doc” Holliday with a troubled past stuck at a lousy desk job, a designer drug called goldjoy, aliens living among us, and magic that comes from the energy of Empire City and you have the perfect urban fantasy. Peter Hartog’s brilliant debut novel, Bloodlines, follows Holliday as he assigned to a special unit to solve “unusual” crimes, the first is a body found with no blood in or around it. Bloodlines is told in the first-person perspective of Holliday, and he is gritty, sarcastic and smart. He also possesses magic from the city in what he calls the “Insight”. The detective has the ability to see people as they really are, which could be anything from knowing why and what a person will do, to looking into their soul in which he often sees demons. The insight doesn’t work all the time, but when it does, it leaves it’s mark on him. It’s not easy seeing people as they really are. I could not have asked for a better urban fantasy. Mr. Hartog perfectly mixes the excitement of solving the crime, Holliday’s coming to terms with his past, and the subtle magic of the city to bring together an amazing urban fantasy. I have been looking for a good urban fantasy series, and I found an excellent one in Empire City Special Crimes. This book something for everyone: mystery, crime solving, thriller and fantasy. I highly recommend it.

Summary (from Storytellers on Tour):

When former hotshot homicide detective Tom ‘’Doc” Holliday is recruited to join Special Crimes, he trades in his boring desk job for a second chance to do what he does best, hunt down killers. And his first case doesn’t disappoint: a murdered woman with a bogus past, her body drained of blood, and two eyewitnesses wasted on the designer drug goldjoy claiming a vampire did it.

For Holliday is no stranger to the unusual. He wields the Insight, a fickle clairvoyance that allows him to see the dark and terrible things that hide upon his world. After all, when you live in Empire City, where magic and technology co-exist, and humanity endures behind walls of stone and spell-forged steel, anything is possible.

Saddled with a team whose past is as checkered as his own, Holliday embarks upon an investigation that pits them against bio-engineered vampires, interdimensional parasites and the magical masterminds behind it all.

From nightclubs and skyscrapers, to underground drug labs and coffee shops, Holliday’s search for the truth will uncover a shadowy conspiracy that spans the ages, and forces him to confront a destiny he never wanted.

World Building

The genre of the book is labelled “dystopian urban fantasy”. It takes place in a very different future where overpopulation, nuclear war, pandemic have ravaged the planet. In the aftermath, what has emerged are self-ruling enclaves, of which Empire City is one. I didn’t get a real dystopian feel. It is actually seemed like a futuristic version of New York City. There are modern transportation systems, housing, restaurants, and yes, the seedy underside of any city. The dystopia stems from the ravaging of the planet and the development of the enclaves, even though they are modern and people live well.

The most ingenious part of the world building is tied to the magic. The nuclear wars activated Nexus points, which store vast amounts of energy and open up passages to parallel universes. Some people, like Doc Holliday, are affected in different ways by this energy. For him, it’s his insight. Through the Nexus points, came the Vellans, an alien race that also decimated their planet.

The world building was fantastic. I loved the mix of the activation of energy triggering magic in some people.

The Characters

The main protagonist, Tom “Doc” Holliday is an extremely well-developed character. He is an excellent detective and didn’t manifest the magic until tragedy struck. My reviews are spoiler-free and disclosing too much here would be. He is a flawed man looking for a second chance. He gets that chance when he joins the Special Crimes Unit and handles cases that appear to require special senses to solve. Holliday is perfect for the job. I enjoyed the book from his perspective. I found him witty, sarcastic and very smart. He loves literature and black coffee with sugar. Any java drinking character gets an A+. We come to know the other characters through him and they are perfectly described without it being contrived. It flows with the narrative.

Enter Besim Saranda, from the Vellan alien race, Deacon Kole, and Holliday’s close hacker friend, Leyla. They help him and in doing so uncover some pretty horrible crimes occurring in Empire City. Deacon Kole was from the Confederate States of Birmingham, the home of religious extremists. He is a “protector”, the law enforcement there. Deacon left and is now the protector of Besim. She is Vellan but tries to look more human. Besim adds an interesting perspective to the story. Leyla is like Holliday’s kid sister. She joins the team as she is an expert hacker, a good skill to have when solving crimes. Through Holliday’s narrative, we get to know these characters very well. However, because it is told from that perspective, secrets are always lurking.

Overall Thoughts

In my search for urban fantasy, I finally found a brilliant series. Bloodlines combines urban fantasy, crime thriller and magic woven into an exciting, page turning mystery. The pacing of the plot is excellent. It pulls you right in and keeps going at an even pace. There were no parts where I felt the story plodded along. Everything moves the story forward until the climax of the book. There were so many things I never saw coming and it was a fantastic read. I love reading through Holliday’s perspective on the other character’s and how he solves the crime. He is a fully fleshed out character and I love his java-drinking take on life. I highly recommend this book. I am looking forward to the next in the series.

You can read more about Peter Hartog on his website:
Purchase Bloodlines on Amazon
My thanks to Storytellers on Tour for sending me a copy of the book.

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