Review: Blood Pressure by Joseph L. Kellogg
Blood Pressure is a gripping police procedural set in a fantasy world of magitech and unique race-types. This first book in the Old Magic Task Force series delivers a satisfying ride of intrigue and suspense.
Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed Blood Pressure. I encourage you to check it out!
Disclaimer: We received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of review. This in no way influences our opinions. (You can request a review here.)
This review contains minor spoilers.
Blood Pressure Publisher Description:
Exsanguinated. Not a word any cop wants showing up in his report. But when a drained body falls from a skyscraper across national borders, the case lands on the desk of Agent Reylic Antali at the Trans-Metro Police, and it’s up to him and his team to figure out who the killer is, and what they’re after.
In a city where four magical races coexist under an uneasy unity, tensions flare up as more bodies land in the morgue. The city seems on the verge of tearing itself apart as Reylic and his Old Magic Task Force race to find the culprit. But what they find may change the nature of magic as they know it…
Follow Joseph L. Kellogg:
Blood Pressure takes place in a society built on magic—a distinct blend of magitech, innate powers, and “old magic.” This last is what Agent Reylic Antali and his team deal with.
“Regular cops can handle your average spell-slinging punk, but when creatures on the edge of civilization start hexing the railways, or death cults call on the powers of things crudely called gods, we get called in.”
I found the additional complexity of multiple nations and groups coexisting within a single city interesting, and the world-building felt natural. The divisions between fantasy races, religious groups, crime organizations, etc. all gave the world feeling of richness beyond their red herring functions within the scope of the mystery.
The setting made the detective story about blood-drained victims—a rather generic premise for a paranormal murder mystery—far more engaging by expanding the potential motives and perpetrators.
Reylic’s team is part of the Trans-Metro Police, and the plot fulfills many of the expectations of the police procedural genre. Reylic works to outwit the unknown killer, and the perpetrator works against him by working the system, much of it complicated by the tangled jurisdictions resulting from the setting.
Luckily his supervisor is sympathetic to his commitment to justice and the safety of ordinary citizens, even when the case seems to be pulled out from under them. The intrigue continues to build, but Reylic finds allies and works with his team to expose the criminal.
Reylic makes a compelling hero. An attitude of determination and diligent follow-through define his character. He is good at his job, if a bit of a workaholic, and gets along well with his colleges. Furthermore, he hates evil and seeks to protect others.
He has a magical condition that is a bit of a medical mystery, but the disability does not stand in his way either physically or mentally. Although his wings are useless, he does not wallow in the unfairness of his situation. Instead, he compensates for that weakness by working out, building muscles and skills so that he is not at a disadvantage. This makes him a worthy protagonist that the reader respects and admires, rather than someone pitiable.
Tyranny and Unfairness
The ideas of justice and injustice in crime fiction often extend to both tyranny and unfairness. Those in power take advantage of the system to give benefits to the people they like and hardships to those that they do not.
The race-based tensions in this story are well crafted to this end. The racists stir up division and unrest, opening the way for the antagonist. However, the thematic message of the story is not really even about racism. Racism itself is not denounced in so many words, but the evil actions of the people motivated by racism are clearly so.
The smaller unfairnesses within the story reveal a more complete thematic picture.
Justice and Hope
Reylic has a complicated relationship with his parents which grew out of the stress around his abnormality. They are not in regular contact, and he assumes the worst of them. But a twist in the mystery allows them an opportunity to reconnect and his parents seize it eagerly. His prejudices against them are part misunderstanding, part parental missteps.
The resolution of this tension reinforces the genre’s central messages. Crime fiction fundamentally asserts that right and wrong exist, and that justice can and should prevail. It doesn’t always in the real world, but that only makes this element more important.
The unfairness that Reylic experienced growing up, the misunderstandings he had with his parents and frustrations over his disability, is readily relatable to genre readers, where murders and race wars are hopefully less so. To see this, too, have a resolution heightens the reach of the thematic impact.
The idea that justice in both our society and our personal lives is possible gives a sense of reassurance and hope.
Check Out Blood Pressure!
Blood Pressure is an exciting murder mystery in an urban fantasy world that makes it all the more compelling. I look forward to reading more of the Old Magic Task Force series!
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