Magic is real and causing havoc in the gangster community of New York

Urban fantasy is a favourite genre for me. I like the intrusion of the supernatural into the “real” world. I suppose that since I started reading fantasy as a child I have always wondered if it is really true ….

Doppelgangster by Laura Resnick is the second in an urban fantasy series featuring Esther Diamond who is an actress. Esther herself has no supernatural powers but she seems to find herself in situations where supernatural events are happening and to play a role in sorting things out. In the first book in the series, Disappearing Nightly, she met and befriended a local bookseller, Max, (the stories are set in New York) who is also a magician and became romantically involved with a police detective who doesn’t believe in what Esther is coming to understand is a hidden part of life.

In this story Esther is “resting” between roles and waitressing in a restaurant which is favoured by gangsters. When she witnesses a murder which can’t physically have happened she becomes involved with a Mafia retired hit man who needs to find out what has happened to stop a Mafia war. She involves Max and his new familiar (a very large dog) and has to dodge her boyfriend who is part of the police investigating team. In order to meet people on neutral ground the Jewish Esther spends a lot of time in the local Roman Catholic church. The investigation by Esther and her friends builds up a picture of identical copies of major Mob dons being sighted before they are murdered – they have to find out who is creating these copies and help key gangster figures dodge their doubles.

These books are light and witty. Esther is a mostly sensible heroine who asks for help and works as part of a team and doesn’t wander off into danger on her own – I like this. The parts where she and her boyfriend can’t get together because of the pressures of work are amusing. The solution to the mystery is probably well signposted but I thought it was very well done. Both books are light reading and don’t explore deep issues but they are fun reads.

Unfortunately, this book touched on an issue that I don’t really like in fiction – and I acknowledge that this is totally personal. I am not fond of books where criminals attain an heroic or leading role and we are asked to sympathise with them. This means that I don’t like a lot of heist plots or stories where the main character only steals from the rich or only murders those who are doing evil themselves. In this story Esther is helped out by a variety of characters from the Mafia including the retired hitman is part of her investigation. There’s a running joke that every time people complain about someone he offers to kill them and has to be talked out of it. I can see why it’s amusing but I didn’t like it because I don’t find murder particularly funny.

If you are looking for a light fantasy read I think you would like this series and I certainly enjoyed the first one. I have, however, had a look at the synopses of the next few books and discovered that the Mafia connection and the retired hitman continue to play a major role so I have decided to cease reading this series now. You may, of course, feel differently.

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