Blue Diablo
by Ann Aguirre
(Roc, $6.99, PG-13 for violence) ISBN 978-0-451-46264-0
****
Venturing away from sci-fi, Ann Aguirre introduces handler Corine Solomon in the first of a new series, Blue Diablo. The title refers to a mixed drink but the devils in Corine's life are plentiful and largely centered on the death of her witch mother and the legacy she left.

Aguirre doesn't screw around with the niceties. Eighteen months before, Corine had snuck away in the night, leaving behind her lover of three years as well as yet another identity. Now, Chance has found her in Mexico City, where Corine has settled into a tight-knit community and is the proud owner of a pawn shop. Her ability to tell an item's history by touching this certainly lends a helping hand in this venture.

It is this very ability that has brought Chance back into her life. His mother, Min, has gone missing and left behind her good luck token - presumably so Corine could help track her. Though reluctant to use her power - which Corine alternately considers a gift and a curse - her affection for Min overrides her common sense, and she immediately takes off with Chance for Texas.

Corine's vision leads the two down a path neither expected from Chance's mother - magic, and not the good kind. Chance calls in a favor from a friend, Chuch, who quickly becomes entirely involved in the case. Corine crosses paths by accident with a local detective, Jesse Saldana, who surprises her with the knowledge that there is an entire society of gifted people. Both to mentor her and to help solve his case, he introduces her around, and Corine comes across several other sources of help - although it often comes at a price.

Despite Chance's favors and good luck, Corine's ability and newfound compadres, and Chuch's numerous sources, locating Min is a fumbling adventure. Discovering that the sorcerer most likely behind much of the harassment is also involved in trafficking prostitutes mires the case down further. Unfortunately, this more mundane aspect of the story is often set aside for supernatural scenes that are a little heavy on the action. However, Aguirre does do a powerful job of weaving the two worlds together.

Blue Devil is told in the first person, and Corine's voice goes a long way toward making her real. She's definitely not perfect, and her occasional botching of relationships and situations just helps to prove that as well as to make her more likeable. Further, the reader is presented the other characters just exactly as Corine sees them; Aguirre does not feel the need to find ways outside of Corine's faulty vision to make excuses for them.

As for Corine's and Chance's relationship, well, it starts off as definitely off and slowly progresses to entirely up in the air. Reliving some of Corine's memories of the two of them is often heartwrenching, as can be Chance's occasional attempts to reconcile. Thankfully - for the good of womankind and for the series - Corine is nothing if not practical; she's not willing to dive back into something she felt was bad for her, even if she's starting to see that she may have had some things wrong. Threads are left hanging between she and Saldana, and some readers may also wonder about the group's internet expert, Booke.

Though it has its weak spots, Blue Diablo is a very promising start to a series that I feel will hold up. Aguirre does a great job of keeping the mystery going even through all of the other angles and incarnations, and her characters practically jump off the page. Though not supernatural in the Anita Blake or Sookie Stackhouse sense, Blue Devil will appeal to readers of that genre, and may also entice readers of fantasy, urban fantasy, and perhaps mystery as well.

--Sarrah Knight


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