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Relight by Fire by CK McDonnell

29/01/2024
Relight My Fire by CK McDonnell

CK McDonnell returns to the weird world of The Stranger Times for the fourth time in Relight My Fire. As McDonnell’s world becomes more complex and plot lines and minor characters carry through from volume to volume it becomes harder to jump into these books as standalones or entry points. But this richness, coupled with McDonnell’s dry wit and humour, is what makes the series great. And it is worth recommending that new readers start at book one (The Stranger Times – which introduces the staff of Manchester’s local newspaper of the weird) and catch up. It also means that this review may contain minor spoilers for those previous volumes.

Relight My Fire starts with two strange and disturbing cold opens. In the second, a young man decides that he should be able to fly and then finds himself floating above an urban street until he is not anymore and falls to his death. He happens to land close to Stella, the mysterious young woman who is part of The Stranger Times staff and has powers that she does not understand. This leads staff and the police to start investigating goings on associated with drug use and eldritch powers. At the same time, curmudgeonly Stranger Times editor Banecroft has been given an ultimatum by a spirit – clear the ledger of his wrongdoings (from the previous book – Love Will Tear Us Apart) by a certain time or be dragged into hell. Not wanting to spoil some of the inspired craziness of the final act but suffice to say McDonnell builds to a highwire mix of comedy and terror that just works.

Relight My Fire is once again a heady and enjoyable mix of urban fantasy, observational humour, whacky by loveable characters, body horror, moustache twirling villains with nefarious plans and just general mayhem. Among some other embellishments to his world building, this book introduces the idea of ghouls, creatures who hang around in cemeteries to make sure they stay inviolate, in the form of a new character called Brian, and three weird sisters who could possibly McDonnell’s stand in for the Fates.

The Stranger Times series continues to get better with every book. McDonnell seems to be having a lot of fun with this series and he brings that sense strongly to the page. It is a world in which every action has consequences and in which decisions that characters make are not always the best ones. And while some mysteries have now been resolved there are still plenty left hanging for the next anticipated entry in this series.

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Relight My Fire by CK McDonnell

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Relight My Fire by CK McDonnell

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