Bryan Camp’s debut novel The City of Lost Fortunes (2018) is a loving ode to New Orleans and everything that makes it superlative: the food, the music, the soul-crushing humidity, and of course, the people. Ambitious, insightful, and filled with commentary on the diversity and similarities across world mythologies, this novel is absolutely the product of a writer who is worth keeping an eye on.
Invited to an exquisitely bizarre card game that he’s compelled to attend, Jude Dubuisson discovers himself in the company of some terrifying entities: a vampire, an ancient Egyptian god, New Orleans’ own god of fortune, a famous voodoo loa, and a literal angel. Jude is, himself, the son of a trickster god and has the ability to find lost items just by touching the people who have lost them, so he’s got just a tad more in his favor than your ordinary street magician might.
But the next morning, the god of fortune is found murdered, and Jude is tasked with finding his killer, saving New Orleans from those who would destroy it, and, if at all possible, repairing a friendship that’s gone horribly awry in the six years since Hurricane Katrina came to town.
Jude’s an interesting guy, with a hard-luck story that adds some grounding to what would otherwise seem like a never-ending party train. He’s got access to magical abilities, but they all have their costs, and forcing himself to live at arm’s-length from “normal” people as the perpetual outsider gives his voice an old-soul flavor that prevents his character from remaining at a superficial wish-fulfillment level.
As much as he sometimes enjoys finding lost things, lost people are no picnic, and he’s deeply shaken by the devastation left in Hurricane Katrina’s wake. His actions and choices have profound and realistic effects on the people he cares about, too, and Camp makes lots of room for Jude to be selfish or screw up royally before trying to make amends.
Camp’s done a mostly-good job of incorporating various mythical, god-like, and outright otherworldly figures into The City of Lost Fortunes, ranging from Thoth to Papa Legba and a whole lot of others in between. I really enjoyed their supernatural interplay, along with their relationships with and dependency upon humanity, and nearly every one of them is an essential asset to the story.
One figure was a notable distraction for me; the reveal of their true identity seems to be meant as a huge twist near the end, but I figured it out as soon as I saw their name, and as much as I wanted to be wrong and for Camp to surprise me in this regard as he had with so many others, I wasn’t. It was a disappointment, though a minor one in comparison to everything else the novel had to offer.
I liked quite a bit about The City of Lost Fortunes, and was pleased by the way the novel ends: opening a door to a wide, interesting world, and with the possibility of new and more complicated adventures in further CRESCENT CITY novels.
I look forward to seeing what Camp has in store for his beloved city.