By: Jason Ridler
Published by Night Shade Books @nightshadenews
Publication date 1st of August, 2017
“Fall, 1970. Los Angeles has always been a den of danger and bliss, but even darker tidings brew in the City of Angels. Cults, magic, and the supernatural are leaking into the worlds of glamour and dives of the gutter. To the spectators walking down Hollywood Blvd, it’s just more proof that La La Land is over the cuckoo’s nest. But to former child magician and Korean veteran turned newly-licensed private investigator James Brimstone, it means business is picking up.
After attending his mentor’s funeral, Brimstone signs his first client: Nico, a beautiful actress with a face full of scars and an unbelievable story of sex, demons, and violence on the set of a pornographic film in the San Fernando Valley. The cops chalk it up to a bad trip from a lost soul, but Brimstone knows better.
He takes the case, but the investigation goes haywire as he encounters Hell’s Angels, a lost book of Japanese erotica, and a new enemy whose powers may fill the streets of L.A. with blood. He’ll have to us his Carney wits, magic tricks, and a whole lotta charm to make it out of a world that is becoming . . . Hex-Rated.”
Sometimes you are attracted to a book because of an author. Sometimes a publisher. Or Sometimes it’s a cover. The latter was the case with Hex Rated. I was just tentatively exploring Netgalley ( a site that lets you apply for review copies of books ) not intending to go for anything, just see how it works. Then my eyes fell on the cover for Hex Rated. I almost broke my fingers applying to review it.
SNAKES, MOVIE CAMERA, DAMES whats not to love – and fall head over heels in love with it I did.
No way the book inside I picked purely on a whim, from an author or a publisher I’d never heard of could be as good?
The book inside is even better than the cover.
I’ve never been to 1970’s L.A. I feel like I have now thanks to Ridler’s unobtrusively excellent descriptive style. He doesn’t monotonously describe every single brick, he just tells you about a wall in such a way you can see it. This guy can set a scene and environment like no ones business. This is one of the most cinematic books I’ve read. I could visualize almost everything as I read without missing a beat.
James Brimstone is a heel. We shouldn’t like him early on in the book he has almost zero redeemable features but yet we root for him and by the end of the book you love the guy, that level of character development takes a lot of skill from the author. Gives you hints of a back story and origin without hitting you over the head with it. The other characters no matter how fleeting are well fleshed out and the book is all the better for it. I particularly enjoyed the character of Nico, the way her scars are described made me actually make a little intake of breath as I read about them for the first time.
The magic described here isn’t for the faint-hearted. it’s dark and it’s dangerous. Hex Rated is not Harry Potter. Tentacles, sex acts, you name it.
On the subject of sex one of the only things that I felt was a let down in the book were the number of sex scenes. I know this is a throw back to pulp books from the era. I know some of it’s scenes are on a porn film set but apart from the first one, at the hotel near the beginning, the sex scenes just get in the way of the plot . They feel forced and unnecessary. This book has so much other titillation going on it doesn’t need them. At one point I just wanted Brimstone to put his “piece” away so I could get to the rest of the story.
Dialogue here is just great. It feels of the era, noir and pulpy but not cliched. The cadence feels right and reads as smoothly as can be. It’s also really funny. It reminded me heavily of Shane Black’s Good Guys,in setting obviously – but also style and comic timing.
There is so much back story left to explore, a great antagonist to come back and so many more cases for Brimstone to solve in 1970’s Hollywood, California. This is the first of the Brimstone Files novels and I can’t wait for the next one. Filthy, magical and dangerous Hex Rated and Jason Ridler should both definitely be on your radar.
You can pre-order Hex Rated HERE from Amazon UK on Kindle
You can pre-order Hex rated HERE from Amazon US on Kindle