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Tuesday, January 4th, 6:45 a.m.
T here's nothing worse than a red-eye flight.
Well, all right, that's wildly untrue. There are lots of things worse than red-eye flights. There are starving children in Africa, hate crimes and Austin Powers's teeth. That's just off the top of my head.
But I was crammed into an airplane seat that wouldn't comfortably hold a four-year-old child, and had been for so many hours I was no longer certain what species I belonged to. I hadn't slept in over a day. I was convinced that if someone didn't stay awake, the airplane would fall out of the sky, and I couldn't trust anyone else to do the job.
My stomach was alternating between nausea from the airline meal I'd eaten hours earlier, and hunger from not eating another revolting meal more recently. I'd forgotten to take my contact lens case with me in my carry-on, and my eyes were burning. My spine was so bent out of shape I'd have to visit a chiropractor for a week to stand up straight again. I was flying back from a funeral to be fired.
Overall, starving children in Africa were taking a distant second to my own misery and discomfort. Shallow, but true.
A very small part of my mind was convinced that if the flight attendants would just let me into the unpres-surized luggage compartment to find my contact case, everything would miraculously be right with the world. None of them would let me, so my contacts were welded to my eyes. Every several minutes I decided it wasn't worth it and started to take them out. Every time, I remembered that they were my last pair and I'd have to suffer with glasses until I made an eye appointment.
I might have succumbed, but the glasses in question were also with my luggage. The idea of navigating a soft-focus world full of featureless faces gave me a headache.
Not that I didn't have one anyway.
I climbed over the round man sleeping peacefully beside me and went to the bathroom. At least I could take the contacts out and stew them in tap water for a few minutes. Anything would be better than keeping them in my eyes.
Anything except my reflection. Have you ever noticed that the mirror is by far the largest object in those tiny airplane restrooms? I was a sick pasty color under the flickering florescent light, my eyes much too green against a network of bloodshot vessels. I looked like a walking advertisement for one of those "wow" eye-drop commercials. Second runner-up for Least Attractive Feature on an International Flight was my hair. I put my contacts in two little paper cups and set them ostentatiously on the appropriate sides of the sink, then rubbed water through my hair to give it some life again.
Now I looked like a bloodshot porcupine. Big improvement. The only thing on my person that didn't look slimy was the brand-new silver choker necklace my mother'd given me just before she died. A Celtic cross pendant sat in the hollow of my throat. I wasn't used to jewelry, and now that I'd been reminded it was there, it felt mildly horrible, like someone was gently pushing his thumb against the delicate flesh. I shuddered and put my contacts back in before weaving my way back down the aisles to my seat. The flight attendants avoided me. I couldn't blame them.
I rested my forehead on a grease spot I'd left on the window earlier. The airlines, I thought, must have custodians who clean the windows, or there'd be an inches-thick layer of goo on them from people like me.
That thought was proof positive that I shouldn't be allowed to stay up for more than eighteen hours at a time. I have a bad habit of following every thought to its miserable, pathetic little end when I'm tired. I don't mean to. It's just that my brain and my tongue get unhinged. Though some of my less charitable acquaintances would say this condition didn't require sleep deprivation.
The plane had been descending for a while now, and I squinted at my heavy black wristwatch. The bright orange button for changing the time had become permanently depressed in Moscow, or maybe Venice. Probably Moscow; I'd found Moscow depressing, and saw no reason why the watch shouldn't. It claimed it was 5:50 p.m., which meant it was almost seven in the morning. I frowned out the window, trying to find the horizon. The sky wasn't turning gray yet, not flying into Seattle three days after New Year's. I blinked at the darkness, trying to unglue my contacts again.
My eyes teared up and I spent a few minutes with my hands over them, hoping perversely that I didn't blink the contacts out. By the time I could see again, the captain had announced the final descent into Seattle. Couldn't they find a less ominous phrase for it? I don't like flying as it is, even without the implication that before landing I might want to have all my worldly and spiritual affairs in order. I pressed my head against the window so I could see the ground when it came into view. Maybe I could convince it to let us land without it being our real final descent.
Or maybe not. The plane banked abruptly and began to climb again. A moment or two later the captain's voice crackled over the intercom.
"Sorry about that, folks. Little disagreement over who got to land next. We're going to take another spin around the Emerald City and then we'll have you at the gate right on time."
Why do airline pilots always call passengers "folks"? I don't usually take umbrage at generic terminology—I'm one of those forward-thinkers who believes that "man" encompasses the whole darned race—but at whatever o'clock in the morning, I thought it would be nice to be called something that suggested unwashed masses a little less. Ladies and gentlemen, for example. Nevermind that, being an almost six-foot-tall mechanic, I had a hard time passing for a lady on a good day, which this wasn't.
I watched lights slip away beneath us as we circled. If I have to fly, I like flying into cities in the dark of morning. There's something reassuring and likable about the purposeful skim of vehicles, zooming along to their destinations. The whisk of cars meant that the people driving them had a goal, somewhere to be, something to do. That was a hell of a lot more than I had.
I stared down at the moving lights. Maybe I didn't like them after all.
The plane dropped the distance that made me an active voyeur in people's lives, instead of a distant watcher. I could see individuals under the streetlights. Trees became sets of branches instead of blurry masses of brown.
A school went by below us, swingsets empty. The neighborhood was full of tidy, ordered streets. Carefully tended trees, bereft of leaves, lined uniformly trimmed lawns. Well-washed cars reflected the streetlights. Even from the air well before sunrise, it screamed out, This Is A Good Place To Live.
The next neighborhood over didn't look as posh. Wrong side of the metaphysical tracks. Cars were older, had duller paint and no wax jobs to make them gleam in the streetlights. Mismatched shingles on patched roofs stood out; lawns were overgrown. It wasn't that the owners didn't care. It was that the price of a lawnmower or a matched roof patch could be the difference between Christmas or no Christmas that year.
Not that I knew anything about it.
A whole street went by, lightless except for one amber-colored lamp, the kind that's supposed to cut through fog. It made the street seem unnaturally vivid, details coming into sharp-edged focus below me.
A modern church, an A-frame with a sharp, nasty spire, was lit by the edges of the lone amber light. Its parking lot was abandoned except for one car, parked at an angle across two spaces, one of its doors hanging open. I wondered if it closed at all. Probably: it was a behemoth from the seventies, the kind of car that will last forever. I grew up with that kind of car. Air bags or no, the little crumply things they make today don't seem as safe.
Someone tall and lean got out of the car, draping himself over the door as he looked down the street toward the functional light. Even from above I could see the glitter of light on the butterfly knife he played with, comfortable and familiar. Watching, I knew that he could play knife games in the dark and blindfolded, and he'd never stab a finger.
A woman broke into the amber light, running down the center of the street. She took incredibly long strides, eating a huge amount of distance with each step, but her head was down and her steps swerved, like she wasn't used to running. Her hair was very long, and swung loose, flaring out as she whipped her head back to look behind her.
I twisted in my seat as the plane left the subdivision behind, trying to see.
A pack of dogs leaked out of the darkness. Their coats were pale gold under the amber light, and they loped with the casual confidence of a hunting pack following easy prey.
The woman stumbled, the pack gained and the plane took me away from them.
"You don't understand. There is a woman in trouble out there." It was the fourth time I'd said it, and the pilot kept looking at me like I was on drugs. Well, maybe I was. Lack of sleep has the same effect as certain narcotics. I was lodged in the door of the cockpit, other passengers pushing out behind me. Fourteen minutes had passed since I saw the woman. There was a knot of discomfort in my stomach, like I'd throw up if I didn't find a way to help her. I kept hoping I'd burp and it would go away, but I didn't, and the pilot was still eyeing me.
"And you saw this from the plane," he said, also for the fourth time. He had that bright lilting sound to his voice that first grade teachers use to mask irritation. "There are lots of people in trouble, ma'am."
I closed my eyes. They screamed with pain, tears flooding as I opened them again. Through the upwell, I saw an expression of dismayed horror cross the pilot's face.
Well, if he was going to fall for it, I might as well milk it. "It was five minutes before we landed," I quavered. "We circled around and came in from the northwest." I lifted my wrist to show him the compass on my watch band, although I hoped that, being the pilot, he knew we'd approached from the northwest. "I was looking out the window. I saw a woman running down the street. There was a pack of dogs after her and a guy with a switchblade down the street in the direction she was running."
"Ma'am," he said, still very patiently. I reached out and took a fistful of his shirt. Actually, at the last moment, I grabbed the air in front of his shirt. I didn't think security could throw me out of the airport for grabbing air in a threatening fashion, not even in this post-9/11 age.
"Don't ma'am me " I stared at his chest until my eyes focused enough to read his name badge. "Steve. Is that your name? Steve. Don't ma'am me, Captain Steve. I just need to know our rate of descent. Humor me, Captain Steve. I work for the police department. You don't want me to go to the six o'clock news after a murder's been discovered and tell them all about how the airline wouldn't lift a finger to help the woman who died."
I didn't know why I bothered. The woman was probably dead by now. Still, Captain Steve blanched and looked back over his shoulder at his instruments. I retrieved my hand and smiled at him. He blanched again. I guess my smile wasn't any better than my hair or eyes just now.
"Hurry," I said. "Once the sun comes up the streetlights will go off and I don't know if I'll be able to find her then."
I left my luggage in the airport and climbed into a cab, trying to work out the triangulation of height, speed and distance. "Drive," I said, without looking up.
"Where to, lady?"
"I don't know. Northwest."
"The airline? It's just a couple feet down the term—"
"To the northwest," I snarled. The cabby gave me an unfriendly look and drove. "Do you have a map?" I demanded a minute later.
"So I can figure out where we're going."
He turned around and stared at me.
"Watch the road!" I braced myself for impact. Somehow—without looking—he twitched the steering wheel and avoided the collision. I collapsed back into the seat, wide-eyed. "Map?" I asked, somewhat more politely.
"Yeah, here." He threw a city guide into my lap. I thumbed it open to find the airport.
Airplanes go fast. I realize this isn't a revelation to stun the world, but it was a little distressing to realize how far we'd flown in five minutes, and how long it would take to drive that. "All right, we're going northwest of the lake." I remembered seeing its off-colored shadow making a black mark below the plane as we'd left the subdivision behind. "Somewhere in Aurora."
"Think? That ain't such a good neighborhood, lady. You sure you wanna go there?"
"Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm trying to find somebody who's in trouble."
The cabby eyed me in the rearview. "That's the right place to look."
I glared at him through my eyebrows. He smiled, a thin I've-seen-it-all grin that didn't really have any humor in it. He had gray eyes under equally gray, bushy eyebrows. He had a thick neck and looked like he'd be at home chewing on a stogie. I asked if he had a cigarette. He turned around and looked at me again.
"Those things'll kill you, lady."
His voice was rough and deep like a lifetime smoker's. Surprise showed on my face and he gave me another soulless smile, reflected in the mirror. "My wife died of emphysema three years ago on our forty-eighth wedding anniversary. You want a smoke, kid, find it somewhere else."
Sometimes I wonder if I have a big old neon sign stamped on my forehead, flashing Asshole. I retaliated with stunning wit: "I'm not a kid."
Gray eyes darted to the mirror again, and back to the road. "You're what, twenty-six?"
Nobody ever guessed my age right. Since I was eleven, people have misguessed my age anywhere from three to seven years in one direction or the other. I felt my jaw drop.
"It's a gift," the cabby said. "A totally useless gift. I can tell how old people are."
I blinked at him.
"Great way to get good tips," he went on.
This book is fantastic, and I can't even tell you why! It's everything! I wouldn't do Jo justice if I attempted to describe her, she's just so brash and in-your-face. This is also a great opening book to an even better series (Thunderbird Falls and Coyote Dreams are even better!) which is great for when you get attached to a character and want to read more. (And trust me, you will get attached to Jo, and Gary, and even Mortison, for that matter!) Do not miss this!!
4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Urban Shaman is an easy read along the same line as Jim Butcher's Dresden files. The characters are easy to relate to and interesting to follow as the story develops. I also like the sense of humor Murphy gives the main character. This is a great read if you are into detective stories or sci-fi and supernatural. I must admit that I am partial to books that are a part of an on going series. This allows you to watch as the author develops the characters over a series of books and allows you to see the characters in different situations. Urban Shaman is the first in a series of books, which to me increases the appeal.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 30, 2009
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This book awkwardly intermingles Celtic myth with Native American legend to solve a rather slow moving supernatural murder mystery set in a rather mundane urban world. For me, the book just didn't work. The imagery of the demigod Cernunnos leading the Wild Hunt is extremely vivid, but the heroine's woo-woo shamanic (out-of-body) experiences combined with her exaggerated klutziness is close to unpalatable. Further, the murder/mystery solving is secondary to the whole woo-woo shamanic factor. The pace and plot are erratic, sometimes slowing down or racing during the heroine's spirit journeys, and, then, perversely launching into a real 'world' event at an inapposite pace. Resolution of the murders/mystery is also marred by a somewhat unsatisfactory climax in which the bad guy is partially healed. (I'm not a fan of 'healing' rather than destroying the bad guy.) The only good action occurs in a scanty two (maybe two and one-half) confrontations between the heroine and Cernunnos. Taken as a whole, I cannot recommend this book.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2005
I'm not going to summarize what the book was about because it's written all over the review page already. However, this book was phenomenal!! I became so submerged in Murphy's world that I literally finished the book in 5 hours. It's a non stop read. Once you pick it up, you can't put it down. The characters are well rounded, and her unique perspective is wondrous. Murphy has quickly jumped to one of my favorite authors.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
As the plane lands, passenger Joanne Walkingstick sees a man with a knife, a pack of dogs and a woman running. Joanne grabs a taxi to head to the spot where she saw the crime take place. She finds Maria D¿Ambra who tells her she was being chased by Cernunnos a Celtic god and leader of the Wild Hunt. She is a banshee who can tell when someone is about to die making her invaluable to the Wild Hunt who collects the souls of the dead..................... The metaphysical is not in Joanna¿s world view until Cernunnos runs her through with a sword and while near death her spirit guide Coyote tells her how to heal herself. She also learns she is a shaman with the power to heal. When she goes to talk with Maria, she finds her murdered in the same way five other shamans were killed in recent weeks. Not much later, the killer attacks schoolchildren in their classroom murdering some and injuring the teacher. He is Herne a demigod who was once mortal and has his own plans for the world and the Hunt. Unless Joanne can grow into her powers to send Cernunnos and Herne back to where they belong Earth is doomed................................... The relationship between Cernunnos and Herne is familial but there is an enmity that exists between them because of their different goals with mortals caught in their cross fire. Joanne accepts the metaphysical work and her shamanic powers a bit too easily but she has the strength and determination to use them in order to fight the two gods. C.E. Murphy has written a spellbinding and enthralling urban fantasy in the tradition of Tanya Huff and Mercedes Lackey.......................... Harriet Klausner
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 4, 2014
OH, goodie! A new-to-me favorite author with a large back list for weeks of reading pleasure! C.E. Murphy hits all my requirements for a "five star" favorite - her plotting, pacing and characterization skills suit my readerly preferences to a "t". By that I mean, the plotting is intricate, but not to the point that I feel lost or can't follow what's going on. The pacing is brisk, but not so breakneck that I don't have time to grasp one situation before rushing headlong in to the next, and the characters are multi-dimensional, with quirks, flaws and strengths both present on the page (well, screen) and implied in the spaces between words. I like that the violence is present, but not graphic or overdone. There is only a potential for future romance in this book, but I suspect that if and when it occurs, it will also suit my tastes (like the violence is - present, but not graphic or overdone). I'll be finishing the "shaman series," then moving on to some of her other series.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 19, 2008
Although I think 'Thunderbird Falls' and 'Coyote Dreams' are better, this first book in the Walker Papers is quite fun and fast-paced. Johanne is an interesting and tough lady who is likable yet realistic. The introduction of so much Celtic and Irish myth was just cool, because not too many books dabble in that area. (The next two are more Native American, which is really fun to read.) Gary is such fun - don't we all know a guy like that? Auh, love it. Anyway, even if you weren't thrilled with this book, read the next two. Like I said, they're even better.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 3, 2008
I really enjoyed the characters in this book. C.E. Murphy has given Joanne a tough as nails exterior with a softer, more sympathetic interior. With her base in two very spiritual, if disparate cultures, it is fascinating to watch how she not only learns to cope with her new shamanic powers, but her dual heritage as well.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 16, 2014
Posted September 25, 2014
Posted September 26, 2014
Posted April 16, 2013
The Wild Hunt is loose, an old celtic go is trying to kill her, someone is murdering people and Joanne just got suspended from the police force before her first day on the street.
I found lots of humor, real and sarcastic, in this book. I really enjoy the way Jo is written and how she tries to deny her destiny. I'm eager to read more.
Posted March 15, 2013
The problem with this book is the oafish, not terribly heroic protagonist, Joanne. Another mechanic, like Mercedes Thompson, but entirely without the charm. And we are supposed to believe that scores of line cops would prisk their jobs to save hers? Please. She's just not likeable enough.
That said, I enjoyed the story well enough, even though little here is new. I'd probably give it a 3.5 over all.
I really enjoyed Joanne's story and her spunky personality. Her love/hate relationship with her boss has me riveted. Joanne's struggle to accept her magic and unique situations will have you following her down a path of enlightenment.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2012
Posted December 1, 2011
Posted August 29, 2011
I love urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Unfortunately this book didnt deliver. It was ok...but not great. I found the main character to be lacking depth. And the pacing was horrible...I really wanted to like this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 28, 2011
I started this series because I couldn't get into the Mercey Thomson series. I fell in love with the series because it felt as if the writer was talking the same way I would. I have never laughed so hard and been so happy while reading in a while.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 27, 2011
Posted March 25, 2011