During the past week, the air conditioner in my house hasn’t been working properly. The first time the repairman took a look at it, the problem seemed fairly straightforward, and he was in and out within an hour.
The next day, however, the AC shut off again. He came back and checked every single part inside and out. The further he dug, the more problems he until finally a solution was reached.
Jeff Elkins’ latest book unfolds in a similar fashion, although the stakes are much higher. Mencken and the Monsters follows Mencken Cassie, an ambitious journalist fighting crime and corruption in Baltimore one story at a time. As the puzzle pieces fall into place, however, unfamiliar faces make their presence known, key players in Mencken’s story die brutal deaths, and monsters emerge from the shadows. With every turn, Mencken finds himself even deeper over his head. It’s up to him to find the courage within himself to do the right thing for his city.
Mencken doesn’t let up, not even for a second. When the titular character isn’t working out the details of the crime syndicate, he’s chasing down a lead on a serial killer or meeting with his editors. When the action comes, it’s fast, brutal, and bloody. There’s even a bit of romance for Mencken, although it’s not a central part of the story. If anything, the romantic subplot is strictly used to reflect on Mencken’s growth.
Elkins subtly ponders the importance of duty and responsibility compared to prestige and glory throughout the story with every challenge Mencken faces. The climax only serves to reflect that duality, leading to a satisfying finale.
The strongest aspect of Mencken is how satisfyingly Elkins blends two genres together. It starts off as a political thriller with hints of urban fantasy scattered throughout. As the story progresses, however, the fantasy side takes center stage, thrusting readers into a world rife with fantastic creatures and mythology.
How are the monsters and the gangsters connected, you ask? I can’t say, and not just because that would be spoiling the fun. This is the first book in the Defense of Reality Series. Elkins has barely scratched the surface of the bizarre, terrifying world he’s created, one that’s sure to enthrall readers. For more info on Elkins and his work, visit his website.
Pre-order Mencken and the Monsters on Amazon. It’s available for Kindle September 10th.
I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I haven’t checked it out, I’ll add it to the list!