A subplot in Ghosts & Echoes involved Sylvie and a werewolf, Tatya, looking into the disappearance of a young woman in the Everglades. Lyn Benedict picks that thread back up at the beginning of Gods & Monsters. The woman has been found dead in the swamps, along with four others. Sylvie doesn’t want to get personally involved in this case, so she calls the police — but when the police move the bodies, one explodes into flame and the other four shift into animals. Three policemen are killed and some injured, including Adelio Suarez, a cop with whom Sylvie has an uneasy alliance. Now she’s involved whether she wants to be or not.
A many-layered plot unfolds, featuring a sorcerer with a diabolical scheme and a god trying to re-awaken. Sylvie has to piece together what’s going on and how the women are involved, all the while dodging threats from enemies she made in the previous book. Benedict stays in control of the complex plot throughout, never letting it devolve into a confusing mess even when the reader doesn’t have all the pieces yet.
Also fantastic is the way Benedict weaves in bits of the previous books. This starts with the opening scene in the Everglades, and later we encounter other “ripples” from earlier events and a character I didn’t expect to see again (and was really tickled to see again!). While each Shadows Inquiries book so far has been a self-contained story, every event has consequences that carry over into the subsequent books. One non-spoilery example is that Sylvie alienated Miami’s witch community in book two, and so when she needs magical help this time, her options are limited and she ends up working with someone whose magical path makes her skin crawl.
The writing continues to be excellent. Benedict evokes a dark mood but breaks it up with occasional snarky humor, such as when Sylvie draws a magic symbol on an enemy’s door. She thinks it’s just a bluff, something she made up on the spot:
It’s not like I go around memorizing random magical sigils. It’s probably some company’s logo. I’ve probably just invoked the wrath of Starbucks on her ass.”
(But of course the sigil ends up being another little detail whose importance becomes clear much later!)
Overall, Gods & Monsters is another strong entry in a strong series. It can be read alone but some events will be more meaningful to readers who’ve been following along. Benedict continues to deliver good writing, original choices of antagonists, and overall, urban fantasy that doesn’t fall into cliché. I wish we’d seen more of Demalion this time, but I have to admit that the way Benedict handles Demalion is another example of the series’ originality. Read these books! You’re missing out.