Heart of Stone
I broke a lot of my own rules when I picked up this book for review. For one thing, I never buy books in trade paper. Here in Australia, they can cost about $30 a piece, so if an author starts out in trade paper, I just wait until the book comes out in mass market paperback before giving it a try. Also, I was bound and determined that the very last thing I pick up to read for a very long time was a new series. Especially a new paranormal series. I have a handful that I’m still invested in, but lately, I’ve been a little tired of the genre and the way too many of them are written – no clear story, no definite ending, the compromise on the first story as a push to pick up the next. Heart of Stone is about to make me break every single one of those rules.
Margrit is a lawyer, a very good one. She has the potential to rise far above her current position, but her overdeveloped sense of responsibility keeps her in her job at Legal Aid, fighting mostly lost causes and impossible to win cases. She also has an irrational attraction to danger, which she indulges by solitary late night runs in New York City’s Central Park. One night, she meets a tall, pale man who stops her simply to say hello. Later that night, when a woman is murdered, and witnesses describe a tall man – with hair so light it could be white, and pale, smooth skin – Margrit realizes that she brushed close to death.
But is her pale man the same as the murderer? Alban keeps approaching her, denying his involvement, claiming his innocence, begging her to help him find the real murderer. And Margrit finds herself unable to stop getting involved. Once she does, though, she finds that everything she knew as truth yesterday is based on fallacy, and her New York must differ from everyone else’s for the rest of her life. Alban is a gargoyle, one of the five Old Races that still exist within the city limits. Margrit will have to deal with each one if she’s to solve the murders and save Alban from discovery and certain death.
Oh boy, did I like this book. It’s not a traditional romance, though there are certain romantic elements, and anticipation of a more solid HEA in the upcoming books. Does this mean that this book falls into the “first book in a series” trap, though?
Oh, heck no. Even if I never read another Murphy novel – not a likelihood – this book will stand alone as a quality novel that builds slowly, but surely, picking up pieces and swelling towards the end with breathtaking surety. Each of the characters are introduced and play their role, never falling into cardboard territory, each well-thought out and developed, but never padded. I closed the last pages with a sigh of satisfaction, knowing I had just finished a complete novel, but that I also have the chance of revisiting well-liked characters again, if I liked.
I only had one small quibble with this novel, and that lay with the characterization of Margrit. She’s a lawyer from a very affluent African-American family. This doesn’t come up during probably the first half of the book, apart from a mention that Margrit has café au lait colored skin. Murphy uses it later on as a neat little twist on the whole “what is human?” debate when Margrit is talking to Alban. However, her boss uses it as a reason to put her on a case – subjecting her to tokenism. This scene and the ones related to it seemed out of place, as if the author was trying to make a point using her characters, one that was not necessary to the plot.
But it remains a small quibble, just one bumpy scene in writing that flowed smoothly, in a story that I can recommend without hesitation.