Book Talk: Bone Street Rumba Series by Daniel Jose Older

Bone Street Rumba

How do I start a post regarding these three novels? Perhaps their creator, no resurrectionist, says it better:

Genres don’t die anyway, not really.  They just hibernate, waiting for that magical resurrection juice to come rev em up again. –Daniel Jose Older

(He goes into detail about who says a trend is ‘dead’ in this thread. It’s worth a look.)

Welcome to Brooklyn. While home to museums, hip coffee shops, and women who can somehow afford nice apartments on a freelance salary on HBO, it’s also home to Carlos Delacruz, Riley Washington, Sasha Brass, Mama Esther among the ensemble making up Bone Street Rumba.  This world may have ghosts, mythical creatures, people occupying the space between life and death, but they still have to deal with paying the bills, falling in and out of love, and bureaucrats. It’s this combination of the extraordinary and the ordinary that makes this trilogy worth reading.

The first book establishes Carlos Delacruz as the fulcrum of the trilogy and the main storyline as he tries to discover how he died and his past life before dispatching beings to the ‘deeper death’ on behalf of the Council of the Death. It’s during one job Carlos discovers other ‘haflies’ including Sasha Brass, a woman who pierces him both emotionally and figuratively.

The next two books add other voices as well from Kia, an employee in a botanica who’s a whiz at business and soon follows her own path, Reza, a heartbroken enforcer with a shadowy past, and even Sasha herself as she sorts her complicated feelings for Carlos.  The plot’s scope widens to include the spirit community’s quest to democratized the dead in the face of a corrupt organization. (And they say being dead is supposed to be peaceful.)

Older balances mystery with the character, especially taking the time to explore relationships between characters, From Carlos’ feelings for Sasha to his friendships with spirits Mama Esther and Riley Washington, it helps raise the stakes of the conflict rather than feeling like pieces on a chess board. The books explore corruption, the way people will ruin the innocent to maintain power, and magic always having a high price on both sides.

I binged these books like a Netflix series, thanks to the library having all three and nobody needing them after me. However, they also make great episodic reading, something not surprising given they have already been optioned. They’re great reading for the beach or during cold nights indoors. It also expands the Urban Fantasy genre, one that never disappears no matter how many times publishers say it’s dead and gone.

As a reader, I find that insulting.

Urban fantasy never goes away as the field starts to resemble the residents of the city itself. My early exposure to the genre had a lot of Celtic influences, not surprising given the Anglo-Irish-Scottish backgrounds of many authors. Now the field includes people like Daniel Jose Older, a man who only went full time in 2014 after holding down a position as an Emergency Medical Technician (paramedics as we call them in Winnipeg). It’s this diversity, real diversity, that breathes new life into genre fiction. If readers need a fresh take, this trilogy will satisfy new readers and those jumping off from the Dresden series among others. The characters stay with you even after reading the last page. That’s a sign, for me, of a good book. It’s also an indication of reading more Daniel Jose Older to come.




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