Into The Thinnest Of Air by Simon R Green

Well, here’s something different. And for reasons that I’ll go into in a bit, here’s the official blurb:

“It’s just a nice weekend, in a nice country inn. Nothing bad is going to happen …”

Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are attending the re-opening of Tyrone’s Castle, an ancient Cornish inn originally built by smugglers. Over dinner that night, the guests entertain one another with ghost stories inspired by local legends and superstitions. But it would appear that the curse of Tyrone’s Castle has struck for real when one of their number disappears into thin air. And then another . . .

Is the inn really subject to an ancient curse? Sceptical of ghost stories, Ishmael believes the key to the mystery lies in the present rather than the past. But with no bodies, no evidence and no clues to go on, how can he prove it?

 So far, so normal for the blog, yes? Which is why I picked this book from Netgalley. So where is the confusion?

Well, first of all, Ishmael Jones is an alien. You know, from outer space…

It’s very hard to categorise the genre that this book – no, this series – fits into. It’s a very hard genre to make work. Create a mystery novel in a genre where the solution “it’s just ghosts” is a valid solution. It’s not even the X-Files, as there it was always something unexplainable. If anything, it’s Scooby Doo after it went downhill and started having real ghosts sometimes.

The alien sleuth thing is odd. The set-up is that Jones and his partner/girlfriend Penny work for a government special agency, where they know of his special background. To summarise, he was the survivor of a spaceship crash, whose DNA was re-written to be human at the last moment so he could survive. So he’s ageless, stronger than the average human, has golden blood and a superior sense of smell. Which of course, doesn’t seem to work when needed…

Ah, got it, just in time for this review, I know what this reminds me of. Edward D Hoch’s Simon Ark stories, the tale of an ageless Coptic Priest on the hunt for Satan. Hoch tones down the immortal bit after a while, but the set-up is basically similar. But the question is – why isn’t the alien-and-possible-supernatural-solution on the blurb? And to be honest, the alien thing seems utterly irrelevant to the plot…

Anyway, putting all that to one side, what about this one? Well, it’s an entertaining enough read if you can get past the premise, although it seemed to whizz by pretty quickly. Not sure if it’s a lowish page count – hard to tell on an ebook – but it probably would have worked better as a novella or a YA novel. As people at the hotel, apart from our heroes, start disappearing one by one while speculating on the ghosts or demons that might be taking them, it became pretty clear to me quickly what was going on. And the motive… well, it’s almost inevitable once you see which direction – human or supernatural killer – that the author has chosen.

Still, as I said, it’s a fun quick read, but probably more for fans of supernatural shenanigans than classic mysteries. But it certainly passed the time nicely enough. Worth A Look. But the blurb (and indeed those of any in the series) really should have been a bit clearer…

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14 comments

  1. This is doubtless the same Simon R Green who wrote the Hawk & Slayer books, the first of which I reviewed and simply could not decide if it was the world’s best send-up or a trashy and abominable ‘straight’ novel set in the laziest, thinnest low-Fantasy world ever written — the genre-blending sounds too similar for there to be two of them! I’m still intrigued by the repeated disappearances, despite being bitten by him once before — worth checking out from an impossible crime perspective (the locked room in H&S actually wasn’t awful, and melded genres reasonably well upon reflection)?

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  2. Simon Green is known to be a Science Fiction/Fantasy author and hence one knows what to expect from him.
    But I didn’t expect such nonsense from a novel by Carr reviewed by JJ ! 🙂

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  3. I have read parts of two science fiction / fantasy series by Simon R. Green which have mystery elements and I found them to be as you described: quick and fun. Very little if any depth but entertaining.

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  4. Green has written heaps of books and is pretty well known in the British fantasy genre – latterly with the Secret Histories series, which presented urban fantasy as a James Bond spoof. Haven’t tried him myself, though, as he’s not my genre, but he’s a name I see often in charity shops.

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    • Well, I’ve never come across him before, I’m afraid. Besides, I’ve more of an issue with how the book was advertised – authors can write in more than one genre and I think this would have been better if he’d kept the oddness out of it.

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  5. I have Nightside on my kindle, I’ll try to read it in the near future, it seems to mix hard boiled detective novel in the style of Chandler with urban fantasy.

    I have his “james bond spoof” too (Daemons are forever, The Spy Who Haunted Me, Casino Infernale)…seems fun too ^^

    Simon Green is an established fantasy writer, almost all oh his novels have been published by Bragelonne, the leader editor of fantasy in France.

    I’ll check it

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