Review: Branywine Investigations: Open for Business by Angel Martinez00:00
I have some exciting news about the blog to share with you. I have a new reviewer joining me. Please meet Edwin, who will be posting a couple of reviews a month. Here is what he says about himself as a way on introduction:
Hi everyone! I'm Edwin, and Ellie's been kind enough to lend me her space occasionally to share my thoughts. I read far too much, both for a living and for fun, and I'll be reviewing mostly in m/m romance, SF & Fantasy, and the overlap between the two.
And here is his first review. Enjoy it!
Title: Brandywine Investigations: Open for Business (Brandywine Investigations #1-3)
Author: Angel Martinez
Date of publication: 27 April 2016
Genre: MM Urban Fantasy
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Edwin's rating: 4 Stars
When humans forsake the temples, the gods need to find other employment. Hades opens Brandywine Investigations after his divorce and his subsequent move to the modern world. If he was hoping for boring infidelity cases and lost dogs, he’s sorely mistaken as murder and mayhem find his agency and his extended family at an astonishing rate.
Canines, Crosshairs & Corpses: Brandywine Investigations #1
No Enemy But Time: Brandywine Investigations #2
Dragons, Diamonds & Discord: Brandywine Investigations #3
Review by Edwin
First off, it's important to note that this is an omnibus of three previously released long novellas/short novels. Apparently they've been revised and a total of 18,000 words in total has been added, but I'd read all 3 previously and didn't notice huge differences, so if you've read them in their original release it's probably not necessary for you to buy this.
If you haven't read them, though - and shelving counts on Goodreads suggest not that many have - I highly recommend picking them up. The conceit of the series is that gods need human contact to survive, and with the worship of many only pantheons dying out, the gods need to live in the human world and take on occupations to get themselves that contact. The focus of these books is on Greek gods, but various creatures and deities from other mythologies pop up as well. Using myth as a framing device is a good idea, and Martinez does some quite interesting things with it, using the myth framing to justify making some of the stories a bit fairy-tale like and sometimes critiquing romance tropes, and using the modern day setting to critique some of the elements of the myths.
The first story, Canines, Crosshairs And Corpses, sees Hades picking up his life after he's been kicked out of the land of the dead by Persephone. We get quite a pointed comment about how bad on the whole consent thing the classical deities were. To fill up his time and maintain mortal contact, Hades starts a detective agency, Brandywine Investigations. This idea of a detective agency forms the plot drive for the whole series: we get various (in fairness slightly half assed) mysteries that the various characters have to solve. In this case, Hades is trying to find out who is murdering homeless people in his area. He - shock - meets a homeless guy, Tiberius, who he falls for pretty quickly. Instalove usually annoys me, but it fits quite well with the Greek myth-style smitten deity getting with a mortal.
The second story, No Enemy But Time, focuses on Hades' son, Zagreus, and his guardian angel, Michael, who fell from heaven when he fell in love with Zagreus. This story is quite hard, in a way. Bad things happen to good people (though there is a happy ending!), and love doesn't solve everything. In fact, the whole story is a pretty obvious rebuke to the too-common tropes of "BDSM as therapy" and "love as therapy". Michael and Zagreus have a loving kinky relationship, but Michael has significant issues - exacerbated by some nasty divine intervention - that love just can't solve. The fact that they end up with a happy ending despite this I think makes it even more rewarding.
Finally, we get Hades' nephew, Hermes, in Dragons, Diamonds, and Discord. He's the messenger god, and a trickster god, so of course his modern business is in internet comms and digital security. His love interest is Fafnir (yes, Fafnir from the Ring Cycle), who is a dragon slash children's book author (which is adorable!). Fafnir is stealing jewels and collecting a horde, which is bad for his mental health, and Hermes, his cousins, and his uncle try to work out what's causing his kleptomania. At the same time, Hermes is falling for him. And we get an interesting Aesop's fable dynamic here on the value of generosity.
The details of each novella aren't really what make them attractive, though. They're perfectly competent, but it's the aesthetic that I really like. Warm, empathetic, a wink and a nod to the source material, and the occasional laugh. A lot of fun, but unexpectedly brainy underneath the fluff, I really enjoyed all of it. Highly recommended for urban fantasy readers, and recommended for m/m readers who can tolerate a bit of fantasy in their romance.