The Droods, that ancient, enigmatic, terrible family which protected humanity from all the things which went bump in the night, are dead. Their ancestral Hall is destroyed, their defenses shattered, their artifacts plundered. Only Eddie Drood, semi-estranged agent, remains to figure out who could have annihilated his family, and avenge them. With his ladylove, Molly Metcalf, Wild Witch of the Woods, he’ll tear apart every corner of the secret world until he’s brought his enemies to justice. No matter what the cost to his soul.
There’s just one wrinkle: The Droods aren’t dead, just misplaced in an infinity of alternate realities, and the only man who can find them is the one responsible for their exile. And he’s the Most Evil Man in the World.
Eddie Drood’s about to make someone pay.
Live and Let Drood, the sixth book in Simon R. Green’s popular Secret Histories, picks up immediately after the devastating cliffhanger of For Heaven’s Eyes Only. With Eddie stripped of his family’s resources and his own invulnerable golden armor, it repositions the intrepid secret agent as desperate and depowered, forced to take even more risks than usual in order to penetrate the mystery at the heart of the story.
Here’s what it boils down to: Eddie wants to find his family. Crow Lee, the Most Evil Man in the World, has stranded the Droods somewhere fare away. With the Droods supposedly gone, their many enemies have come sniffing around, looking for a little payback or worse. In order to deal with the issues at hand, Eddie first makes a deal with one of his family’s most infamous failures. He then allies himself with the Department of the Uncanny, a secret organization affiliated with the British government, run by the legendary Regent of Shadows. With their help, he’s not only able to deal with Crow Lee, but he finally discovers just who the Original Traitor at the heart of the Drood family is, much to everyone’s surprise. It’s a messy, violent, wild, bizarre story from start to finish, and it’s harder to sum up than you’d think.
The Secret Histories has always been Green’s attempt to blend his usual urban fantasy material—the Nightside books, Ghost Finders, Drinking Midnight Wine, and so on—with a James Bond attitude. Rather unsubtly, Eddie Drood’s secret identity is “Shaman Bond,” and the book titles are also a dead giveaway. However, Live and Let Drood doesn’t just evoke James Bond, it also conjures up the spirit of The Avengers (British version) with the Department of the Uncanny. (Characters named Patrick and Diana show up, obviously named for Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg, AKA Steed and Peel and even I noticed that )
I’ve long held that Green’s books make for excellent popcorn reading. They’re widescreen adventures, blockbusters with unlimited budgets and absolutely no restraint or sense of decorum. The body counts are high, the stakes higher, the sense of wonder undeniable. They defy genre, incorporating elements of science fiction, fantasy, espionage, mystery, and more. Green’s characters always have the best lines, the best toys, and the best poses. They live, love, hate, fight, and die magnificently and passionately—unless they’re among the many spearcarriers who litter the streets afterwards. Plot is occasionally loose, continuity occasionally hiccups between books, death is a mere inconvenience, and it’s all in-your-face.
And I love ’em. You give me a new Simon R. Green, it’s going straight to the top of my reading pile. They’re my not-so-guilty pleasure. Live and Let Drood, thusly, is one such book. The cliffhanger from the previous installment is essentially spoiled on the back cover copy, letting the reader know, well ahead of the characters, that the Droods aren’t as dead as they seemed. From then on, it’s a wild race to overcome a series of increasingly wild and dangerous obstacles, involving ever-more-nasty villains. I’m not exactly sure what’s left for Eddie to face, now that he’s dealt with everything from Lovecraftian invaders to immortal serial killers and the Most Evil Man in the World, but I’m confident it’ll be impressive.
As usual when I try to review Simon R. Green, I seem to talk about his overall style, as opposed to the specific book in question. I’m not sure why this is, exactly. Quite possibly, it’s because on some level, his books all stem from the same well, each one feeling very much like the one before, with only the relevant details and dangers swapped out. While some writers are capable of reinventing themselves with every new book, Green has thoroughly embraced his strengths and sticks to them. You won’t find anything significantly new in Live and Let Drood, for example, save the progression of certain long-running plots and themes, and a few new revelations that may actually change the future course of the series. But otherwise, it’s Eddie and Molly, kicking ass all over the place, with the help of their weird new friends. Business as usual. It’s thoroughly tied into the Nightside and Ghost Finders books, for good measure.
Bottom line: As a fan, I was thoroughly satisfied by Live and Let Drood. It delivers some major payoffs to questions raised earlier in the series, continues Eddie’s personal growth, and has five times the minimum daily allowance of awesome. As a reviewer, I’m once again confronted by an odd inability to find new and interesting things to say about individual works. If you’re already a fan of the series, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this. If you’re not a fan, where have you been? Seriously though, you might want to start at the beginning, with The Man With the Golden Torc, and lose yourself in some gloriously mindless fun.
Michael M. Jones is a writer, editor, and book reviewer. He lives in Roanoke, VA, with a pride of cats, way too many books, and a wife who occasionally steals whatever he’s reading. For more information, visit him and an ever-growing archive of reviews at Schrodinger’s Bookshelf. He is the editor of the forthcoming anthology, Scheherazade’s Facade.