Angela Slatter – Corpselight

Life in Brisbane is never simple for those who walk between the worlds.

Verity’s all about protecting her city, but right now that’s mostly running surveillance and handling the less exciting cases for the Weyrd Council – after all, it’s hard to chase the bad guys through the streets of Brisbane when you’re really, really pregnant.

An insurance investigation sounds pretty harmless, even if it is for ‘Unusual Happenstance’. That’s not usually a clause Normals use – it covers all-purpose hauntings, angry genii loci, ectoplasmic home invasion, demonic possession, that sort of thing – but Susan Beckett’s claimed three times in three months. Her house keeps getting inundated with mud, but she’s still insisting she doesn’t need or want help . . . until the dry-land drownings begin.

V’s first lead takes her to Chinatown, where she is confronted by kitsune assassins. But when she suddenly goes into labour, it’s clear the fox spirits are not going to be helpful…

I loved Angela Slatter’s first Verity Fassbinder novel Vigil. I adored its heroine, the setting and the world. But for some reason I didn’t get round to reading book two in the series, Corpselight, when it came out last year and I never got around to it. But with the third book, Restoration, having just been released, when I was asked to be part of the blog tour, I decided that it would be the perfect time to catch up. And I’ve been kicking myself ever since, because why did I deprive myself of such a fabulous read for a year? 

Corpselight picks up Verity’s story about eight or nine months after the end of Vigil. And we quickly find out that life is quite different for our intrepid heroine. Not only has she moved in with her boyfriend David, who she met in the previous book, she is also heavily pregnant. The pregnancy isn’t a plot device, but it is part of the story, just as in Vigil her romance with David was largely present in the background of the narrative. Slatter shows how Verity has to deal with the changes to her body that come with growing a human inside of you, but also with the attendant shift in perspective that comes with the responsibility for a tiny human. Verity’s horror at coming face to face with a breast pump was hilarious, perhaps because it was so familiar. The way Slatter incorporated Verity’s pregnancy and — after the baby is born — her being a new working mum, into the story was fantastic and surprisingly realistic, if you forget that Verity’s job entails solving Weyrd crime and taking down the bad guys. Swap out the monsters for library books and I could very much relate. It is rare to see working mums like this in fantasy, so I really appreciated it here.

Many of my favourite characters from the first book made a reappearance. Verity’s driver Ziggi is there of course, as is her boss Bela. David, obviously, but also the Norns, the café-running, gossip-collecting sisters from Little Venice, and Verity’s police liaison Rhonda McIntyre. Mel and Lizzie are off on a cruise to recuperate from the last adventure, so they are missing, but the rest of Verity’s chosen family is all here. I really liked how all of these characters were developed, gaining depth and more background, especially Ziggi and McIntyre. We also meet several amazing new people, such as Sister Bridget, a former exorcist nun, turned nurse and Joyce, the last kitsune sister. I really enjoyed these additions to the gang and hope we will see more of them in future books. There is another character who we are introduced to here, but as that is a major reveal in the novel, I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say, they are bad ass and amazing.

Corpselight’s action is mainly driven by the cases Verity is working. Starting off with the insurance investigation and then the dry-land drownings, she acquires several side cases, such as those mysterious kitsune who keep attacking her and the search for a jewel that was stolen from a local naga. While at first glance, these all seem unrelated, Slatter weaves them together without it seeming forced. Verity also discovers more about her family and her background during her investigations and we make some surprising discoveries. The book is fact-paced, with a lot of action — not all of it battles and fighting — Verity keeps busy doing some good, old-fashioned sleuthing. She does a lot of talking, gathering information, and even stake outs, all while making sure to express enough milk to feed baby Maisie when she is out on the job.

Where Vigil’s ending was clean, Corpselight clearly leaves the story set up for the next instalment. While the cases are solved, Verity is given a new assignment and one that will put her and everyone she loves in danger. It isn’t a cliffhanger ending, but it is one that left me glad that I had the next book Restoration in hand to immediately continue reading. So perhaps it was unknowing wisdom that led me to not read Corpselight this past year, because this way I didn’t have to wait to discover what happened next. Slatter’s Brisneyland and Verity Fassbinder make for addictive reading, so make sure you have all of them on hand and enjoy.