A few months ago I got a manuscript copy of Low Town, a debut novel by Daniel Polansky. The rep who gave it to me isn’t a big genre fan, but she couldn’t help but rave about this book. I dug into the the first chapter as soon as I got it. I was hooked. Polansky has written a gritty crime novel full of the classic tropes, from the tough fallen-hero protaganist to a cast of rogues, unsavory cops, and violent dilettantes.
The story revolves around Warden, an ex-cop who has become a powerful figure in the local underworld. He polices the slums where he lives and keeps the other criminals at bay. When he becomes implicated in the brutal killing of a young girl, Warden has no choice but to do the cop’s job for them before they hang the frame on him. Of course, the twist is that the girl was killed by foul demon magic.
Yep, the story is set in a fantasy world. A decidedly low fantasy world, where magic is powerful but uncommon and life is bleak for the unwashed masses. Add to this the legacy of a bloody war and an even more deadly plague, and you’ve got a dark stew. Dark enough to satisfy any noir crime fan who might otherwise hold their nose when handed a fantasy novel. Good enough to make this the best debut novel I’ve read all year.
Once again, you should buy it.