I have known Kate Smith for a very long time, and I’ve been reading bits of her fiction for nearly that long. The thing about Smith’s writing is that she is often quite opaque – if you don’t get her song lyric references or her film references, you might be a bit lost. But she writes with a lot of passion and a lot of quirky description – which sometimes gets away from her but sometimes really works nicely.
Illume is set in Paris, and focusses on Thane, who works for the equivalent of UNIT or Shadow Unit or all the other not-really-police-branches who deal with the things that go bump in the night. This time, it’s about lovers who think they can make their love immortal, dangerous mirrors, and vampires. You never really get to the bottom of the characters who make the narrative tick; they’re surface, trading witty repartee and dangerous allusions and making intuitive links. That’s not to say they’re superficial – I don’t think they are – but Smith doesn’t really show us what makes even Thane tick, let alone his partner Mal or his crime-partner Genetta or any of the other odd bods who rock up. And I don’t think this is an oversight on Smith’s part; I think it’s quite deliberate. She seems more interested in the glitz and suggestive shadows than in deep psychological questions. So if you’re up for something light-hearted and fast-paced and quirky – definitely quirky – in the urban fantasy vein, this is your thing.