Anya Kalinczyk, an arson investigator for the Detroit Fire Department, is back but this time she’s investigating bizarre cases of spontaneous human combustion. The first such case, that of an elderly collector of supernatural artifacts, Jasper Bernard, leaves Anya puzzled. The fire that killed Jasper barely damaged anything else in his small Detroit home. His body is reduced to ashes…except for a few finger bones and his slipped clad feet. Everything else seems covered in a greasy soot but the burn damage is minimal. When asked by her Captain, she can only surmise the case is one of spontaneous human combustion – something that is so highly unlikely that it’s virtually impossible.
So begins Sparks, the second of Ms Bickle’s urban fantasies located in Detroit, Michigan. As we read Sparks, we meet again some of our favorite characters – her boyfriend Brian, the tech manager for DAGR the ghost hunting group she works with, Jules DAGR’s leader, Max the teenaged gofer-ghost hunter in training, Ciro the supernatural sage and handicapped owner pf the Devil’s Bathtub, a bar, where DAGR is housed, Katie the witch and, of course, Sparky, her fire elemental familiar.
As the story progresses, we learn that someone is capturing spirits after their deaths and before they go into the light and that there is a ‘vessel’ in Detroit capable of holding hundred’s of these spirits. The question is why would anyone want to do this? And Who would want to do it?
Anya’s goal is to answer these questions but as she attempts to do so, she realizes that something is up with Sparky. The familiar is getting plumper even though all he eats is electricity. The answer is a shocking surprise. Sparky is pregnant. Anya knows very little about human pregnancies not to mention nothing about salamander pregnancies. Her friend, Katie the witch, comes to the rescue though and drags a stunned Anya to the nearest baby store.
Sparky is one of my favorite non-human characters ever and his affinity to anything electronic is terribly amusing (as long as it’s not my electronics, that is) but, imagine dozens of little Sparkies running around nipping at wiring, desk lamps, computers, cell phones. You can imagine the kind of holy terror those little beasties could create.
Imagine, though, the kind of power that Sparky and his brood of baby salamanders can generate. When Anya narrows her focus to Hope Solomon, a celebrity pshycic, as the person behind the spirit kidnapping and the cases of human combustion, she realizes the danger that Sparky and his babies are in. With them and all the missing spirits, Solomon could be unstoppable. Anya’s job now becomes one of how to stop Solomon. Anya won’t let anyone endanger Sparky or his babies.
As before, I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. The sheer amount of research Ms Bickle has done on Detroit and its environs is breathtaking. The vivid descriptions of Detroit show a large urban city on a steady decline. I’ve no idea if the descriptions of Anya’s fire investigation techniques are correct but they sound correct and that’s good enough for me.
I’m constantly amazed at the detail Ms Bickle incorporates into her books but more than that I’m delighted with the growth and depth of the characters. These are not static people who’ve been pigeon-holed into specific roles. Some of the personality twists are just as surprising as the plot twists but they’re logical enough that the reader will nod and say yes, I know a guy just like that.
All in all, Sparks is a grab-you-by-the-neck attention getter that you won’t want to put down. If you enjoy urban fantasy, you want to get Sparks. I highly recommend it.
I somehow ended up with two copies of Sparks. I'm keeping one (Embers, the first book in the series, and Sparks are definitely going in my Keeper Shelves) but I'm going to pass the second one on to one of my Star-Crossed readers. To get your name in the drawing, send me an email with SPARKS REVIEW in the subject line and your snail mail addy in the body by Friday, Nov 5. My alien kitten Wookie will help me select the winner.