ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.
Cover designed by: Emily Courdelle
Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Fetch Phillips Archives (Book #2)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 448 pages
Published: 24th September 2020 by Orbit (UK) & 22nd September 2020 by Orbit (US)
It feels good to be back in Sunder City.
I can’t be the only one who thinks that the concept of time is utterly broken this year. When I was reading Dead Man in a Ditch, the second book in The Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold, I was surprised to find myself still remembering a lot of details from the first book. Turns out that I read The Last Smile in Sunder City back in January. That is wild to me, I genuinely thought I was reading Arnold’s debut last year instead of this year. On the other hand, it’s pretty cool that Arnold managed to release the sequel to his debut seven months months after his debut’s publication date.
“The world had been reset and everything could be rediscovered. For an engineering genius who had already mastered so many disciplines, being able to write the rulebooks from the very beginning was a gift, like forgetting the end of your favorite story so you can read it as if for the first time.”
Magic is still gone, but there’s a man murdered inexplicably, and it seems that the only logical explanation behind the cause of death is the use of magical power. Fetch is hired to solve this mystery, and what he uncovers on his investigation reveals deadly secrets that will affect the citizens of Sunder City. Honestly, if you’ve read and enjoyed The Last Smile in Sunder City, there’s a good chance that you’re going to enjoy Dead Man in a Ditch as much or more. Arnold’s debut was a novel filled with self-contemplation about regrets and redemption, and although I enjoyed it, I understand that readers who want more actions out of their urban fantasy read might crave for more, and that’s what Arnold did here. The flashback sequences were fewer, and the tensions were ramped up further. There were several occasions in this murder-mystery focused novel where the structure of the story felt like a chain of novellas instead of one continuous string of events. However, as I progressed reading, I was delighted to found that every sub-cases that Fetch found himself into were all connected with each other.
“You still think, after everything that happened, that what you do doesn’t matter? That because you take your orders from someone else, that you’re no longer accountable for your actions? Nothing is just a job, Fetch. Especially now. Not at a time like this.”
Almost the entirety of the first book was centered around Fetch Phillips, and I’m glad that there were definitely more important side characters spotlighted here. I loved the distinctive voices that Arnold imbued into Fetch’s narrative. I’ve mentioned this in my review of the first book, but this series is filled with some thought-provoking passages that I thoroughly enjoyed. Redemption is still the key themes of the plot, but additionally, Arnold displays the crucial necessity of focusing on what truly matters instead of being stuck in the past. The path of improvement, rebuilding, and responsibilities might be difficult, but it’s always a better choice than not moving on. Also, there were a few social commentaries that felt incredibly relatable and relevant about the danger of easy accessibility to weapons. One example:
“You’ve touched the pistol. Nobody needs to show you how to hold it or the way to make it work. It is the most elegantly designed piece of evil I have ever seen. From the moment you pick it up, you want to use it, don’t you think? It’s almost impossible not to.”
There seems to a sense of comfort from reading Arnold’s take on urban fantasy. Maybe it’s the melancholic tone of the story that tends to appreciate solitude rather than dismiss it. This doesn’t mean that the moments of loneliness were ever absolute. Fetch does have a small number of companions that he keeps and trusts, but each appreciation towards the benefit of being alone occasionally seems to elevate the preciousness of his relationships with them, and that’s something I can relate to. Grab a tea, coffee, or a beer, pick your elixir, sit down, and let Luke Arnold welcome you back to Sunder City with Dead Man in a Ditch. I’m not sure whether this will be a trilogy or more; I hope there will be more because although this was great, I personally think that urban fantasy is a type of subgenre that starts reaching its stride only after three or four installments are published. And this is definitely an urban fantasy series to keep on your radar.
“We have our long talks and our secrets, years of adventure by each other’s side, but try as we might,” he put his whole hand across my face and squeezed it like he was trying to crack my skull, “we can never break through. I will never get inside your head and you will never really know what is happening in mine. That is our curse, boy. Each and every one of us.” He took his hand away and his eyes glowed bright green. “We are all alone.”
Official release date: 24th September 2020 (UK) and 22nd September 2020 (US)
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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