I didn’t know anything about this book when I decided to review it, other than the cover looked like a noir-ish call back to those LA detective novels of the 1930’s, or maybe a Constantine-like mystery. I was kind of right on both counts, proving you CAN judge a book by its cover and do a halfway decent job. Let’s discuss The Damned.
The Damned Vol. 1 (Oni press)
It’s prohibition. The mob runs the underworld, and a fair bit of the surface as well, but unbeknownst to most is that the true power of the mob are demons.
Yep, demons–hellfiends, with horns and all, and caught in the middle of various warring factions of these brimstone-smelling bastards is our protagonist Eddie.
Now, don’t feel too bad for Eddie. He’s far from a good guy, but he does have a particular set of skills that makes him valuable to the various demons who want him to work for them, or who he owes money to.
Eddie can be killed, you see, but he doesn’t stay dead. The next person to touch him after he’s shuffled off the old mortal coil takes on the wound that killed him, and he stands up, dusts himself off, and looks at the newest scar on his very scarred body.
From an introduction of an anti-hero that complex, to meeting various horned demonic mobsters, and to the typical cast of dames, cheap hoods, and tommy guns that all noir novels are incomplete without, this story grabs you by the face while simultaneously unweaving a complex murder mystery.
I enjoyed every second.
Now, I’m a big noir fan. The novels of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James M. Cain are totally up my alley. The men are jerks, the women are two faced, the guns are cocked, and the bar is open. They’re fun to read, and even as formulaic as they get, still an interesting mystery to try and solve.
This gives a good and very strong twist to that old trope, by adding in the fanstatical and biblical. Eddie is a thin character that you’ve seen in every mobster movie ever, but he comes back from the dead, so the pastiche has grown. The demon mob boss is cut and paste from an Ellroy novel, with the addition of red skin and huge horns. Not small twists by any means, and not a huge impact to the standard unravelling of the mystery that noir novels present, but a unique enough take on it to entertain and keep you coming back for more.
I truly enjoyed this and recommend it to mystery fans out there. If you’re not a Phillip Marlowe fan, or LA Confidential didn’t do it for you, however, you might feel this falls a little flat.