cover image Hounds of the Underworld: The Path of Ra, Book 1

Hounds of the Underworld: The Path of Ra, Book 1

Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray. Raw Dog Screaming, $14.95 trade paper (204p) ISBN 978-1-9357389-6-1

Rabarts and Murray (At the Edge) mix crime drama and horror in this lively, promising series launch set in a near-future Auckland, New Zealand. Scientific researcher Pandora “Penny” Yee has been hired to help figure out what happened at a messy crime scene. Her psychically gifted brother, Matiu, who serves as her driver and bodyguard at their father’s insistence, does not like the look of the case: there are odd circumstances surrounding the crime (which may or may not have been a murder), and he hears voices telling him to interfere with the investigation. But Penny is desperate for her lab business to succeed so she can repay a loan from her demanding parents and maybe even earn their respect, so she insists on sticking with it, dismissing Matiu’s connection with the spirit world as “talking to his imaginary friend.” As Penny and Matiu pursue the case further, they realize they are on the brink of otherworldly intrigue and terror. Written with verve, Rabarts and Murray’s novel has as much heart as suspense. The characters brim with life. Penny and Matiu’s sibling banter is both entertaining and bitter, colored by the complicated history of their multiracial family. The authors’ use of Maˉori and New Zealander terminology throughout gives a sense of place. The horrific parts of the narrative have a tendency to fall a little flat, and true, exhilarating terror is never reached. Otherwise, Rabarts and Murray’s joint effort puts a delightful, refreshing spin on urban fantasy tropes. (Aug.)