The Banshee’s Walk by Frank Tuttle

Rating: 8/10 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 
Title: The Banshee’s Walk
Author: Frank Tuttle
Genre: fantasy, paranormal
URL: Samhain Publishing
Price: US $5.50
Other Information/warnings: violence, horror

Summary [from the publisher]:
When patron of the arts Lady Erlorne Werewilk hires Markhat to identify the parties who are stealthily mapping out the Lady’s estate by moonlight, Markhat anticipates the usual—greedy relatives or rapacious neighbors plotting a land grab. After all, muses Rannit’s most feckless Finder, the Lady runs a colony filled with young artists. Aside from snits over color and perspective, how dangerous could a squabble over a backwoods house possibly be?

With new partner Gertriss in tow, Markhat takes the Lady’s case. Before the first night is done, the house is visited by murder, mayhem, and the haunting wail of what may be a genuine banshee, come to herald not just one death, but the deaths of all within. Trapped in a house under siege, Markhat must make a desperate gamble with an old enemy to win the race to unlock the secret that lies beneath the Lady’s lands. And find a way to turn that secret against the powerful forces converging on House Werewilk.

My review:

My previous experiences with Mr Tuttle’s output have all been positive, and I’ve been waiting on The Banshee’s Walk for what seems like years – though the last book, The Cadaver Client only came out in December last year. So I was looking forward to this a great deal, but as I started to read, I thought, “oh no, the master has lost his way.” Who’s this new female character, Gertriss, and don’t tell me Darla’s been left out again? And god help us, not the “Throw those glasses away, Miss Smith” moment where the dowdy young secretary wannabe private dick suddenly blooms into a ravishing beauty, slaying the villains by sheer force of her loveliness?

I should have had more faith in my man 🙂 Gertriss, after the obligatory and sadly stereotyping “Why Miss Smith, you’re really pretty” scenes, failed to engage my attention as much as I suspect Mr Tuttle would have liked, but aside from that and a few somewhat sexist comments and descriptions which made me grind my teeth early on in the book, the story unfolded in a completely satisfactory and satisfying manner. Eventually. Because it don’t half take its time getting on with things, and I wondered whether we would ever finish with showing Gertriss blooming and reintroducing us to the weird rules and freakish characters that make up the world of Rannit. I felt at times Markhat was channelling Travis McGee’s less attractive and more irritating personality traits – especially the unexplained omniscience and instant rapport with strangers – and fan of both men though I am, I did want to slap Markhat at times.

Finally the pacing improved, Markhat stopped buggering around, and it hits its stride with a lovely, spooky story, bringing back old favourites like Darla (love Darla!) and the unfortunately named Evis Prestley (yes, really), to solve the mystery of unearthly art being produced by rank amateurs, a house under siege by…surveyors (yes, really) and random, deadly attacks by crossbows and wizards. Oh, and there’s a banshee, who’s possibly the most fascinating and beguiling character in the whole fascinatingly, beguiling panoply. Good triumphs, evil is vanquished, and it’s just possible Darla gets to make an honest man out of her ham-sandwich loving paramour. Maybe 🙂

But I do have criticisms. Gertriss’s characterisation verged on the Mary Sueish, and was all over the place. She seemed to be filling the generic sidekick role with an overlay of the smart-mouth secretary, without ever settling down properly, though I definitely warmed to her.  Darla was underused, though fabulous, and I wonder why the author  created Markhat’s perfect companion, only to leave her so much off-stage? (At least she appears in this book – you could read The Cadaver Client without ever realising Darla existed. The author doesn’t treat her with much respect.) Tuttle also expect Herculean feats of memory from his readers, referencing the huldra from two books back (one which came out over a year ago) without a second spent on filling in the backstory, so even though I’d read Hold the Dark, I was scrambling to place the importance of the huldra and what it was for the entire book. Some of us are old, Mr Tuttle. Some of us read lots and lots of books. I really can’t be expected to remember everything about your universe, can I? Throw the old girls a bone now and then and we’ll be happy.

More seriously – the editing on this book was really poor. The word usage and phrasing wobbled all over place, as did the punctuation – eccentric was the kindest word you could use for that. I spotted four glaring line edit errors which shouldn’t have made it past the author, let alone Samhain’s terrifying editing process. I found it distracting, and definitely dampened my reading experience. Frank Tuttle is a terrific writer and deserves better, and obviously is an author who needs a strong editor. This wasn’t up to snuff compared with the previous four books.

But even Frank Tuttle’s less than absolute best is better than most authors’ career finest, and The Banshee’s Walk turned out to be a ripping and enjoyable yarn. It could have been better, but in Tuttle’s hands, it would never have been anything but worthy. Recommended. But he better not forget Darla next time or I will be one pissy reader!