Note: This rating reflects my happiness with the audio version of Burn Me Deadly. Four stars for the print version. Listen to a sample of this audiobook here.
Ah, the combination of Alex Bledsoe (the author), Eddie LaCrosse (the hero) and Stefan Rudnicki (the reader) — it doesn’t get much better than that!
Burn Me Deadly is the sequel to The Sword-Edged Blonde, which I adored, and since Mr. Bledsoe has been picked up by Tor, I’m guessing I’m not the only one who felt that way. I’m happy to report that I enjoyed Burn Me Deadly even more than The Sword-Edged Blonde. Mr. Bledsoe’s got a good thing going here and I think his success results primarily from three factors:
- His writing style is consistently clear, spare, and straightforward. There is no feel of a conscious attempt to be stylish, yet there are occasional beautiful insights and figures of speech (especially Eddie’s similes) and a splash of grim humor. This style works perfectly with the first-person voice and noir style of these books — just the facts, ma’am.
- His hero is mature (not an angsty teenager) and naturally likable. Eddie LaCrosse is just a normal guy. Well, he’s actually from a minor noble family, but this is almost irrelevant so far. (I’m not sure if Mr. Bledsoe plans to capitalize on Eddie’s connections later, but if so, thankfully there’s no foreshadowing.) Eddie’s got some serious skills since he worked as a sword-jockey, but he doesn’t have any magical powers or instruments, or any sort of prophecy, destiny, or hero complex.
- His plot is quick, exciting, tense, and realistic. There are no foreshadowed events or ridiculous plot contortions to get characters in the right places at the right times, and the things you think you see coming don’t come. You often feel like you’re reading a straight crime novel (in a different world), until suddenly there’s a god or a dragon. Also, nothing is prettied up. Sex happens, torture happens, swearing happens, murders happen. Not in an Abercrombie shock-value kind of way; just in a real-life kind of way.
Those three things make for a terrific original fantasy, but add in one more factor — Stefan Rudnicki as the reader in the audio version — and you’ve got something that goes beyond. Rudnicki is always a wonderful reader, but this part was made for him. Not only does he have the perfect deep gruff voice for noir, but he also pulls off female characters quite well. Kudos to Blackstone Audio for recognizing this delicious pairing.
If you listen to audiobooks, you absolutely must choose that format for The Eddie LaCrosse Mysteries. If you don’t listen to audiobooks, it’s time to start with The Sword-Edged Blonde.
Even so, when Laura Lesperitt dashes out in front of his horse one moonlit night, in the middle of nowhere, grizzled sword-jockey Eddie LaCrosse offers to help her. But before Eddie even knows what the trouble is, Laura’s on the wrong side of death’s river, and he’s going under. With the help of his equally tough and tender girlfriend, Liz, Eddie tries to get back on his feet and into the heart of a mystery that brings together the roughest criminals in Eddie’s (Southern-flavored) backwater town of Neceda, misplaced royalty, and bizarre tales of mythical beasts.
Burn Me Deadly (the second of the Eddie LaCrosse Mysteries) is a worthy follow-up to The Sword-Edged Blonde by the talented (and funny) Alex Bledsoe. All the elements that made The Sword-Edged Blonde a fresh and furious ride remain: a fast plot; distinctive minor characters; well-conceived and realistic action scenes; and above all, Eddie’s clear, gruffly honest narrative, served up like throat-burning whiskey in a chipped mug with some wisecrack or another painted on the outside:
“I told them a blow to your head was the least likely way to kill you, since it couldn’t hit anything vital.”
“You scared the hell out of me.”
“If I’d done that, there’d be nothing left of you.”
Or this one, for literary elitists (like this reviewer):
“I’ll be glad when we get him hung,” Gary said.
“Hanged,” Argoset and I corrected in unison.
Burn Me Deadly differs from The Sword-Edged Blonde in that the central mystery isn’t as far-reaching or metaphysically complex, which places the former much more squarely in the sword-and-sorcery genre. (This is simply an observation.) While both books can stand alone, I do recommend reading The Sword-Edged Blonde first. If you like it, Burn Me Deadly is a natural follow-up and may be even more appealing to readers who prefer more straightforward tales. All in all, Mr. Bledsoe has a good thing going here, and readers should hold out hope that Eddie and Liz get some well-deserved rest before the next storm of trouble heads their way. Four moonlit blades.