Simon R. Green,
Agents of Light & Darkness
(Ace, 2003)

In Something from the Nightside, Simon R. Green introduced us to a secret world found deep beneath the streets of London, a fantastical place where it is always 3 a.m. and the unimaginable is commonplace. John Taylor, a private eye blessed with a unique gift for finding anything, returned home to the Nightside after several years in the real world, reneging on a promise he had made to himself to never go back. A girl was missing, and -- more importantly -- her mother was willing to pay good money to get her back. It appears Taylor is now back to stay, if for no other reason than to investigate the mystery of his own destiny and that of the inhuman mother he never knew. All of that will have to wait for the moment, however, as angels have come to the Nightside.

The very future of the Nightside, not to mention a little something called the Apocalypse, hangs in the balance as the forces of good and evil tear the Nightside apart in search of a powerful object that has gone missing. It is nothing less than the Unholy Grail, the cup from which Judas Iscariot drank at the Last Supper. If anyone can find it, it is John Taylor -- and everyone in the Nightside knows it. Already commissioned by a strange little man representing the Vatican, Taylor finds himself at the very center of the most dangerous case of his career. Even the good angels care little for man, and they don't shirk from leaving burned out husks and pillars of salt in their wake. They also can't be trusted any more than the angels of darkness, as Taylor learns all too well -- first-hand. Unfortunately for Taylor, this means he can't use his special gift for finding things in his search for the Unholy Grail, as it allows the angels to pinpoint his location. Knowing he will need some extra muscle to survive this one, he teams up with trigger-happy Shotgun Suzie and calls in a few special favors from erstwhile associates such as Razor Eddie, Punk God of the Straight Razor, and Strangefellows bar owner (and Merlin ancestor) Alex Morrisey.

Taylor's search takes him to such infamous places as the Pit, a club run by the Demon Lordz; the headquarters of the Fourth Reich; the old Styx Theatre where the dead and undead go for entertainment; and that most secret and mysterious of places -- the warehouse holding all of the treasures of the Collector. The reader will learn all about the Speaking Gun, the only weapon capable of harming angels, and witness characters and events unusual even by Nightside standards. Aside from the search for the Unholy Grail, Agents of Light & Darkness also holds out clues to the possible future we glimpsed (courtesy of a Timeslip) in Something from the Nightside, especially Taylor's place in that future and the truth about his long-lost mother. It is a truth that seemingly threatens to destroy the Nightside and the world around it.

This is a very quick read, and it is constantly entertaining. Black humor abounds, moral truths are addressed in the most unusual of manners, friends and enemies interact in increasingly unexpected ways, and the ending does not disappoint, actually adding much to an already exciting and highly compelling story. Even secondary characters such as Shotgun Suzie and the Collector begin to take on an unexpected depth in this novel -- obviously, Green is still building for the future of the Nightside series. While this book stands apart from its predecessor, underlying themes tie the two together and pave the way for future eagerly anticipated jaunts to this ingenious underworld of Green's creation.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 13 November 2004

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