I have been following author team Geoff Habiger and Coy Kissee ever since reading their debut effort Unremarkable, a gritty 20’s era gangster romp (with vampires). They have a certain talent for genre fusions, where they brew up refreshing takes that hook readers into new yet familiar worlds. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, so I was already on board as an eager fan when it came time to read the sequel, entitled Untouchable.
Unremarkable had set up the world of Saul, an everyman protagonist that serves as the title’s namesake. He gets sucked into an underworld drama that ultimately sees him “killed” by Al Capone. Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler. Hell, the reader learns this fact in the very first line of the first book. The quotation marks are also a deliberate choice, as Saul returns as a vampire. Again, hardly a spoiler, as it assumes the plot-driver role in the second book.
Untouchable sees Al Capone on the run with Eliot Ness in pursuit. Saul becomes part of the law enforcement ensemble tasked with hunting down Capone, as his vampire abilities make him an ideal tool. This is perhaps the most compelling aspect of the book, i.e. the oft-nefarious role leveraged by the other side. It’s not a unique premise, but the authors manage to revamp it by using a subject who was noble from the start. As the story progresses, Saul is beleaguered by both sides, forcing him to question the nature of his partnerships.
Speaking of partners, Saul’s detective companion embodies the love-to-hate role within the story. Christian is about as stubborn and narrow-minded as they get. He only sees Saul as an abomination, despite how many times Saul saves him from certain death. Whenever you sneer while reading this book, the vast majority will be directed at this glorious schmuck.
Habiger and Kissee also carry over the dreary noir vibe of the first book. Some of the most visceral parts of the story are when Saul is walking the streets by himself while wrangling with his predicament. I could easily taste the rust and smell the smoke that encircled him. He and the story give off a Watchmen feel, similar to Rorschach tromping the streets with a gravelly monologue accenting each step. In fact, the outfit tasked with protecting mortal realm is called the Night Watchers, so perhaps this was a deliberate homage.
The pacing is tight, the action is punchy, and the dollops of humor are well-placed. Humor can be especially mishandled in darker series, and the authors wield it with skill and finesse. Some of my favorite parts of the book are when Saul has mental conversations with his family. If I had to make a list of my favorite lines, they would all come from here.
And so, a mounting war between Al Capone and a mysterious opposition takes center stage, with Saul thrown into the mix as the proverbial monkey wrench. There’s not much more I can say that wouldn’t be a potential spoiler, but I can say that many scenes with Capone had me wincing as he channeled the darkest sides of Tony Soprano. Untouchable is a delightful sequel that I can highly recommend to fans of gritty monster tales and fast-paced detective thrillers.
As a parting thought, I can also say that the ending is a grin-inducing springboard into the next book, which I can only hope that Habiger and Kissee are working on right now.
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