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Stalking the Unicorn (John Justin Mallory Series #1)

Stalking the Unicorn (John Justin Mallory Series #1)

3.1 10
by Mike Resnick, Boris S. Vallejo (Illustrator)

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It's 8:35 pm on New Year's Eve, and Private Detective John Justin Mallory is hiding out in his Manhattan office to avoid his landlord's persistent inquiries about the unpaid rent. As he cheerlessly reflects on the passing of a lousy year, which saw his business partner run off with his wife, he assumes the bourbon is responsible for the appearance of a


It's 8:35 pm on New Year's Eve, and Private Detective John Justin Mallory is hiding out in his Manhattan office to avoid his landlord's persistent inquiries about the unpaid rent. As he cheerlessly reflects on the passing of a lousy year, which saw his business partner run off with his wife, he assumes the bourbon is responsible for the appearance of a belligerent elf. This elf informs him that he needs the detective’s help in searching for a unicorn that was stolen from his charge.

When Mallory realizes the little green fellow is not going to disappear with the passing of his inebriation, he listens to the elf's impassioned plea that the stolen magical beast must be returned to his care by daylight or his little green life will be forfeited by the elves’ guild.

Join detective Mallory on a New Year's night of wild adventure in a fantasy Manhattan of leprechauns, gnomes, and Harpies as he matches wits with the all-powerful demon "The Grundy" in a race to find the missing unicorn before time runs out!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This enchanting blend of fantasy and hard-boiled detection, back in print after two decades, heralds a new series from prolific multiple-award-winner Resnick, best-known for his Birthright Universe series. On a gloomy New Year's Eve, recently bereft of wife and partner, down-and-out New York City PI John Justin Mallory is hired by Mürgenstürm, a little green elf who wants Mallory to track down a stolen unicorn. After gradually accepting that his client is not an alcohol-fueled hallucination, Mallory deftly takes on a shadow city of demons, leprechauns and gnomes even as he learns that his own future hinges on the unicorn's recovery. The crisp dialogue and imaginative setting will have many fantasy readers wanting to revisit Manhattan's magical side. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Caroline Goddard
Young adult fantasy lovers will be enthralled with this new Mike Resnick adventure. Taking place on New Year's Eve, readers will join in the adventure with detective John Justin Mallory as he hunts for the elusive unicorn, Larkspur, with his elf client, Murgensturrm. This is not just any hunt though, as Resnick takes us into the "other" Manhattan, containing leprechauns, gnomes, and harpies. Learning this "other" Manhattan is not as easy as one may think. It is filled with magical creatures, staircases that appear and disappear, and a set of rules unknown to our hero. As the night goes on, Mallory enlists the help of a cat-girl named Felina and a hunter named Winnifred Carruthers who both can maneuver in this unusual Manhattan. This help comes none too soon, as the hunt takes on new meaning. John Justin Mallory learns that his fate also depends on finding the unicorn. Mallory learns that the unicorn is in possessions of a ruby that determines who will be allowed to travel back and forth between the two Manhattans. If he cannot find the unicorn in time, he will be stuck in the "other" Manhattan forever. John Justin Mallory is a character you want to know, from his great sense of humor to his incredible street smarts. You cannot help but root for him throughout the book. Resnick's alternate Manhattan is a magical place that we all want to visit. Stalking the Unicorn was originally published twenty years ago, and this reprint is a must read for all fans of fantasy and mystery alike. Reviewer: Caroline Goddard

Product Details

Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
Publication date:
John Justin Mallory Series , #1
Product dimensions:
4.13(w) x 0.75(h) x 6.75(d)

Read an Excerpt


A Fable of Tonight A John Justin Mallory Mystery

Prometheus Books
Copyright © 1987

Mike Resnick
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59102-648-8

Chapter One 8:35 PM-8:53 PM

Mallory walked over to the window and stared out through the dirt.

Six floors below him people were busily scurrying about the street, parcels and briefcases in hand, as an endless row of yellow cabs inched past them.

Christmas decorations were still attached to most of the lampposts, and a couple of Santa Clauses, evidently unaware that it was New Year's Eve-or possibly simply displaying a little individual enterprise-were ringing their bells, laughing their laughs, and asking for money.

He leaned against the window and looked directly down at the sidewalk in front of his building. The two burly men who had been stationed there all day were gone. He grinned; even enforcers got hungry. He made a mental note to look again in half an hour to see if they had returned to continue their vigil.

The phone rang. He looked at it, mildly surprised that it hadn't been disconnected yet, and briefly wondered who could be calling him at this time of night. Finally the ringing stopped, and he walked over to his chair and sat down heavily.

It had been a long day. It had been an even longer week. And it had been an absolutely endless month.

There was a knock at the door and he sat up, startled, then let out a yelp of pain.

The door squeaked open and an ancient, white-fringed head peered in at him.

"You okay, Mr. Mallory?"

"I think I pulled something," muttered Mallory, rubbing his back gingerly with his right hand.

"I can call a doctor," offered the old man.

Mallory shook his head. "We've got all the medicine we need right here."

"We do?"

"If you'll open the closet door, you'll find a bottle on the top shelf," said Mallory. "Pull it down and bring it over."

"Well, now, that's mighty generous of you, Mr. Mallory," said the old man, walking across the worn linoleum to the closet.

"I suppose it is, at that," acknowledged Mallory. He stopped rubbing his back. "So, what can I do for you, Ezekiel?"

"I saw that your light was on," replied the old man, indicating the single overhead light above Mallory's bare wooden desk, "and I thought I'd stop by and wish you a Happy New Year."

"Thanks," replied Mallory. He smiled ruefully. "I don't imagine it can be much worse than the last one."

"Hey, this is expensive stuff!" said the old man, pushing aside a couple of battered bats and pulling out the bottle. He stared at it. "There's a ribbon around it. Did one of your clients give it to you, for Christmas?"

"Not exactly. It's from my partner." He paused. "My ex-partner. Sort of a surprise going-away present. It's been sitting there for almost four weeks."

"It must have cost him, oh, twenty bucks," ventured Ezekiel.

"At least. That's first-class sour-mash bourbon from Kentucky. It was probably fertilized by Secretariat or Seattle Slew in its natural state."

"By the way, I'm sorry about your missus," said Ezekiel. He opened the bottle, took a swig, murmured a contented "Ah!" and carried it over to Mallory.

"No need to be," said Mallory. "She's doing just fine."

"You know where she is, then?" asked Ezekiel, seating himself on the edge of the desk.

"Of course I know where she is," said Mallory irritably. "I'm a detective, remember?" He grabbed the bottle from the old man and filled a dirty New York Mets mug that had a broken handle he had glued back on. "Don't take my word for it. Check out my office door."

Ezekiel snapped his fingers. "Son of a bitch! That's what I was going to talk to you about."

"What?" asked Mallory.

"Your office door."

"It squeaks a lot. Needs some oil." "It needs more than oil," replied Ezekiel. "You crossed out Mr. Fallico's name with red nail polish."

Mallory shrugged. "I couldn't find any other color."

"The management wants you to hire a painter to do it properly."

"What makes you think a painter can cross out Fallico's name any better than I can?"

"It don't make any difference to me, Mr. Mallory," said Ezekiel. "But I figured I ought to give you a friendly warning before they start making threats again."

"Again?" repeated Mallory, lighting a cigarette and tossing the match onto the floor, where it created a tiny burn mark to go with several hundred similar charred brown spots. "They've never made any threats about my door before."

"You know what I mean," answered Ezekiel. "They're always after you about your rent, and throwing paper cups out the window, and the kinds of clients that walk through the lobby."

"I don't choose my clients. They choose me."

"We're getting off the subject," said Ezekiel. "You've always been nice to me, always willing to pass the time of day and share a drink or two, and you're the only one who doesn't call me Zeke even though I ask everyone not to ... and I'd hate to see them throw you out over something as trivial as the sign on your door."

"Wait until they open the mail next Monday and my check's not there," said Mallory with a grim smile. "I guarantee you they'll forget all about the door."

"I know a guy who could paint it over for twenty bucks," persisted Ezekiel. "Twenty-five if you want gold lettering."

"It's part of the building," said Mallory, staring thoughtfully at the glowing tip of his cigarette. "The management should pay for it."

Ezekiel chuckled. "This management? You've got to be kidding, Mr. Mallory."

"Why not? What the hell am I paying my rent for?"

"You're not paying your rent," noted the old man.

"Well, if I were, what would I be paying it for?"

Ezekiel shrugged. "Beats me."

"Beats me, too," agreed Mallory. "I guess I won't pay it." He turned to the door. "Besides, I kind of like the way it looks."

"With Mr. Fallico's name all crossed out like that?" asked Ezekiel, scrutinizing the door.

"The son of a bitch ran off to California with my wife, didn't he?"

"I know it's none of my business, Mr. Mallory, but you've been bitching about both of them for the better part of five years. You ought to be glad to be rid of them."

"It's the principle of the thing!" snapped Mallory "Nick Fallico's off in Hollywood collecting two thousand dollars a week as a consultant for some television detective show, and I'm stuck back here with all his deadbeat clients and a month's worth of laundry!"

"You haven't done any wash since she left?"

"I don't know how to work the machine," said Mallory with an uncomfortable shrug. "Besides, they repossessed it last week." He looked at the old man. "I didn't get this deep into debt on my own, you know," he added sharply. "I had a lot of help." He glared at his cigarette. "And to top it off, the two-timing bastard took my slippers."

"Your slippers, Mr. Mallory?"

Mallory nodded. "Doreen for the bourbon was a fair trade, but I'm going to miss those slippers. I'd had them for fourteen years." He paused. "That's a hell of a lot longer than I had Doreen."

"You can get another pair."

"I'd just gotten these to where they didn't pinch."

Ezekiel frowned. "Let me get this straight. You wore slippers that pinched for fourteen years?"

"Twelve," Mallory corrected him. "They felt just fine the last couple of years."


"Because Doreen never took a broom to a floor in all the time I lived with her."

"I mean, why didn't you go out and get a pair that fit right?"

Mallory stared at the old man for a long moment, then exhaled heavily and grimaced. "You know, I hate it when you ask questions like that."

Ezekiel laughed. "Well, anyway, I just thought I'd let you know they're going to start complaining about the door."

"Why don't you paint it? After all, you're the janitor."

"I'm the sanitary engineer," the old man corrected him.

"What's the difference?"

"Thirty cents an hour, more or less. And I don't paint doors. Hell, I'm getting so old and stiff I can barely push a mop down the hall."

"Ten dollars," said Mallory.


"For twenty I can get your friend."

"True," admitted Ezekiel. "But he can't spell."

"Then why did you recommend him in the first place?"

"He's neat, and he needs the work."

Mallory smiled ironically. "Yeah, my keen detective's mind tells me that a sign painter who can't spell needs all the work he can get."

"Fifteen," said Ezekiel.

"Twelve, and you can see all the dirty photos I take the next time I'm on a divorce case."

"Deal!" said Ezekiel. "Let's seal it with a drink."

"You'll have to wait until next week for the money," added Mallory, passing the bottle to him.

"Come on, Mr. Mallory," said the old man, taking a swig. "How hard can twelve bucks be to come by?"

"That all depends on whether this damned rain stops in time for Aqueduct to dry out by tomorrow afternoon." He snorted in disgust. "Who ever heard of rain on New Year's Eve?"

"You're not betting on Flyaway again?"

"If the track is fast."

"Doesn't it bother you that he's lost eighteen races in a row?"

"Not a bit. I'd say that, statistically, he's due to win one."

"Pay me before he runs and I'll do it for ten dollars," said Ezekiel.

Mallory grinned, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a number of crumpled bills. He tossed two of them across the desk to the old man.

"You're a sharp bargainer, Mr. Mallory," said Ezekiel, pocketing the money. "I'll paint it the day after tomorrow." He paused. "What do you want it to say?"

"John Justin Mallory," replied Mallory, arranging the words in the air with his hand. "The World's Greatest Detective. Discretion Assured. No Job Too Small, No Fee Too High. Special Discount to Leather-Clad Ladies with Whips." He shrugged. "You know-that kind of thing." "Seriously, Mr. Mallory."

"Just my name."

"You don't want me to put 'Private Detective' below."

Mallory shook his head. "Let's not discourage any passersby. If someone comes in here with enough money, I'll play point guard for the Knicks."

Ezekiel chuckled and took another sip from the bottle.

"This sure is good drinkin' stuff, Mr. Mallory. I'll bet it was aged in oak casks, just like the ads say."

"I agree. If it was a cigar, it would have been rolled on the thighs of beautiful Cuban women."

"A man ought to drink something this good to ring in the New Year."

"Or get rid of the old one," said Mallory.

"By the way, what are you doing up here at this time of night on New Year's Eve?"

Mallory grimaced. "I had a little disagreement with my landlady."

"She threw you out?"

"Not in so many words," replied Mallory. "But when I saw my furniture piled up in the hallway, I applied my razor-sharp deductive powers and decided to spend the night at the office."

"Too bad. You ought to be out celebrating."

"I'll celebrate like hell at midnight. This damned year can't end fast enough to suit me." He looked at the old man. "What about you, Ezekiel?"

Ezekiel looked at his wristwatch. "It's about eight forty. I'm locking up at nine, and then I'm taking the wife out to Times Square. Check your TV in a couple of hours; you might be able to spot us."

"I'll do that," said Mallory, not bothering to mention the obvious fact that he didn't have a television set in the office.

"Maybe you'll get an assignment yet tonight," said the old man sympathetically. "A couple of guys were looking for you earlier, at about four o'clock. They said they might be back."

"Big guys?" asked Mallory. "Look like they've been munching on steroid pills?"

"That's the ones."

"They're not looking to hire a detective," answered Mallory. "As a matter of fact, they're out to dismember one."

"What did you do to them?" asked Ezekiel.

"Not a damned thing."

"Then why are they after you?"

"They're not," said Mallory. "They just don't know it yet."

"I don't think I follow you."

Mallory sighed. "Nick needed a grubstake to go out West-Doreen is many things, good and bad, but inexpensive isn't one of them-so he blackmailed some of our clients."

"And left you to take the heat?"

Mallory nodded. "It appears one of them took exception to Nick's notion of fund-raising."

"You'd better tell them that it wasn't your fault."

"I intend to. I just haven't found the right opportunity yet. Something about their faces implies that they're just not in a very conversational mood. I suppose they'll calm down in a couple of days, and we'll work things out."

"How?" asked Ezekiel.

"Well, if all else fails, I'll give them Nick's address in California."

"That doesn't sound like you, Mr. Mallory."

"I got into this business to catch blackmailers, not hide them," replied Mallory.

"I always wondered about that," said Ezekiel.

"About what?"

"Why someone becomes a detective. It's not as exciting as the TV makes it out to be."

"You ought to see it from this side."

"Then why did you become one?"

Mallory shrugged. "I don't know. I saw too many Bogart movies, I guess." He took the bottle back, filled the New York Mets mug again, took a swallow, and made a face. "It sure as hell isn't the way I imagined it, I'll tell you that. Most of the time I feel like a photographer for Hustler-and whenever I do luck out and bust a thief or a pusher, he's back on the street before I'm back in the office." He paused. "The worst part of it is Velma."

"I don't know any Velma," said Ezekiel.

"Neither do I," replied Mallory. "But I always wanted a big, soft secretary named Velma. Nothing special: outfitted by Frederick's of Hollywood, slavishly devoted, and maybe a little bit oversexed. Just your typical detective's secretary." He stared at the bottle. "So what I got was Gracie."

"She's a nice lady."

"I suppose so. But she weighs two hundred pounds, she hasn't gotten one message right in close to two years, all she can talk about is her kid's allergies, and I share her with a one-eyed dentist and a tailor who wears gold chains." He paused thoughtfully. "I think maybe I'll move to Denver."

"Why Denver?"

"Why not?"

Ezekiel chuckled. "You're always talking about getting out of the business and moving away, but you never do."

"Maybe this time I will," said Mallory. "There's got to be someplace better than Manhattan." He paused. "I hear that Phoenix is pretty nice."

"I've been there. You can fry an egg on the street at midnight."

"Then one of the Carolinas."

Ezekiel checked his watch. "I've got to go now, Mr. Mallory," he said, getting up and walking to the door. "You have a nice evening."

"You, too," said Mallory.

The old man went out into the corridor and closed the door behind him.

Mallory walked over to his window and peered out through the dirt for a couple of minutes. Finally he pulled some peeling gray paint off one of the walls, wondered how such an empty room could seem so small, and sat back down at his desk. He uncapped the whiskey bottle again and had a drink in loving memory of the Velma who never was. He had four more in honor of four unnatural sexual acts he had never had the courage to suggest to Doreen (and which he was absolutely sure she was gleefully performing with Fallico at that very moment), another one for the last race Flyaway had won (assuming that he actually had won a race in the dim and distant past; it was always possible that he had only gone to the post eighteen times), and one more for the year that was finally crawling to a close.

He was about to have a drink to mourn the loss of his slippers when he noticed the little green elf standing in front of his desk.

"You're pretty good," he said admiringly. "But where are the pink elephants?"

"John Justin Mallory?"

"You guys have never talked before," complained Mallory. "Usually you just sit around singing 'Santa Lucia.'" He squinted and looked around the office. "Where are the rest of you?"

"Drunk," said the elf disgustedly. "This won't do at all, John Justin. Not at all."

"The rest of you are drunk?"

"No. You are."

"Of course I am. That's why I'm seeing little green men."

"I'm not a man. I'm an elf."

"Whatever," said Mallory, shrugging. "At least you're little and green." He looked around the room again. "Where are the elephants?"

"What elephants?" asked the elf.

"My elephants," answered Mallory, as if explaining the obvious to a very slow child. "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"

"Mürgenstürm," said the elf.

"Mürgenstürm?" repeated Mallory, frowning. "I think he's on the next floor."

"No. I am Mürgenstürm."

"Have a seat, Mürgenstürm. And you might as well have a drink before you vanish." He checked the amount of whiskey remaining. "A short one."

"I'm not here to drink," said Mürgenstürm.

"Thank heaven for small favors," murmured Mallory, raising the bottle to his lips and draining its contents. "Okay," he said, tossing it into a wastebasket. "I'm all through. Now, sing your song or dance your dance or do whatever you're going to do, and then make way for the elephants."


Excerpted from STALKING the UNICORN by MIKE RESNICK Copyright © 1987 by Mike Resnick. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mike Resnick (Cincinnati, OH) is the author of Dog in the Manger, the first Eli Paxton mystery. The all-time leading award winner, living or dead, for short science fiction, he has won five Hugos (from a record thirty-six nominations), plus other major awards in the United States, France, Spain, Croatia, Poland, and Japan. He is the author of sixty-eight novels, more than two hundred fifty stories, and two screenplays, and he has edited forty anthologies. His work has been translated into twenty-five languages.

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Stalking the Unicorn (John Justin Mallory Series #1) 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Right margin is messed up and the lasr word or two of every single line is missing. Obviously formatted by morons.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy the fiction of Mike Resnick. The formatting of this particular book is keeping me from enjoying this book. Help!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book, but you'd never know it. The epub itself is completely messed up and any attempts to get a fixed version failed.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow. That cover is amazing. REALLY!?! !
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
If you've read the Dresden series, this might sound familiar. However it's different in so many ways. Unlike the Dresden Files, Stalking the Unicorn is much lighter and the element of a dark comedy is much more prevalent throughout the story. It was a fun enjoyable read, and John Justin Mallory does make a good protagonist to follow. The worlds created in this book are interesting. There's 'normal' Manhattan and the other Manhattan inhabited with fantastical creatures. John Justin Mallory gets sucked into the other Manhattan with a case that seems out of this world, and with an unlikely character behind it (a little elf). Now while that seems entirely unbelievable, Mallory actually takes the case because, well he's really got nothing else to lose. He takes everything in stride, but his sense of humor is dark and he does have a comment here and there to get a chuckle out of the reader every once in a while. He has an unlikely cast of friends who help him (either out of just being nice or for their own entertainment) Felina and Eohippus are in their own right, fun to read and provide extra laughs. Mallory's run in with the military also provide a hysterical read. The plot was good, but yet there is little character development mentioned. It would have been nice to see Mallory develop more - he does somewhat but not as much as I had thought. The ending makes way for the other books in this series and I have no doubt they will be as fun as this one (at least, I hope so!). I'd say the only criticism I have of this book is perhaps it should have had more character development. Without much development, characters tend to be like 'cardboard' and although they were fun to read in this book, it just seemed as if they were lacking a soul. Stalking the Unicorn provides a perfect blend of mystery and fantasy, adding dark comedy into the mix and the result is a fun light read. Mallory's decision in the end opens up for more books to come. I'll be looking forward to them and hoping they were just as fun to read as this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is New Year¿s Eve in present day Manhattan and private detective John Justin Mallory is having a drink at his office when he sees the elf Murgensturrm the sleuth assumes he is hallucinating. The elf convinces the shamus he is real and needs his help. On Murgensturn¿s Manhattan in a parallel universe he was given an assignment by his guild and he blew it. If he does not find the unicorn Larkspur by the next morning he will die. Leprechaun Flyer Gillespie stole the unicorn on behalf of the demon Grundy. --- Gillespie double crosses Grundy so Mallory on this alternate earth searches for the impish leprechaun. He gets helps from Felina the cat-girl, who adores him and is at his side as he makes his inquiries. A small talking horse informs Mallory that Larkspur is special because on her forehead is a magical ruby that is the gateway between earths. Something happens and his quest becomes personal. Mallory must find the ruby or become trapped on this alternate Manhattan that is weirder than his birth side as elves, goblins, dwarves and other make up part of the populace. Worse some want the outsider dead. --- Mike Resnick shows why he is a first class storyteller who switches from his more serious works to a lighthearted whimsical urban fantasy filled with interesting characters from various mythological species and of course a somewhat stunned human sleuth. The tale located in Manhattan is fascinating as there is no telling what might crawl out of the subway (sounds actually like the NYC I grew up in). The hero is a Phillip Marlowe type placed in a strange yet similar environs and his investigation is very entertaining as he follows clues that seem slightly off kilter in his mind. --- Harriet Klausner