Book Review: Marked Territory

I love film noir mysteries. Casablanca is one of my favorite movies, and The Maltese Falcon hangs around in my top 20. (I know, know, we can debate whether Casablanca fits that mold, but it’s definitely not a pure romance.) There’s something about the pure, elemental simplicity of a good mystery with a hard-nosed protagonist that lays a solid storytelling foundation. If you’ve read my review of Redwall, you know I also enjoy a good woodland-creatures underdog tale.

What happens when the two genres collide?

The Basics:

Title: Marked Territory
Author: Neal F. Litherland
Genre: Mystery, Noir, Urban Fantasy, Action
Publisher: Ring of Fire Press, 2020

Spoiler-Free Summary:

Leo is a no-nonsense alley cat scraping out a living on the mean streets of New York. After a run-in with a gang of raccoons, his reputation brings a church-mouse without options right to his doorstep. Leo’s curiosity and inability to resist a hard-luck story soon drags him into the middle of a junkyard dog turf war. Why all the bared teeth over an abandoned lot? Who put the dogs up to it? Leo can’t rest until he finds out.

Why This Book is For You:

Litherland captures the feel of a gritty black-and-white mystery with his clean narration and hard-hitting action. The characters may be small and fluffy, but their problems and personalities are anything but.

I stand by this low-quality “Drake Meme” featuring the unofficial blog mascot

This investigation is more than sniffing out cold trails. When Leo’s back is against the wall, the claws comes out, treating the reader to heart-pounding and often surprising actions scenes. I want to emphasize that “surprising” piece. Sometimes in fantasy tales, fights are little more than mental eye candy. When Leo has to duke it out the consequences drive the story forward.

There is real risk that procedural mysteries featuring a series of witness interviews might grow repetitive. Litherland leaps over this literary pit trap by filling Leo’s world with truly charming characters. Though their stories may only intersect Leo’s for a half a chapter, I found myself smiling at, hating, pulling for, or wanting to take home each stray.

Where Can You Find More?

I’ve previously featured both the author’s blog and an earlier work, Crier’s Knife, in this space. You can check out his backlist over on Goodreads.

Happy reading, and happy writing.

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