Before we get into the rest of my full endorsement of Midnight Taxi Tango, I feel the need to ask a question: What kind of Ouija board does author Daniel José Older have access to? Is he somehow hotline blingin’ with the underworld? The way he writes about the dead, the half-dead, the preternatural and the politics that govern them — it reads more like dictation than creation. There are some genuinely creepy scenes in MTT. Skin crawling, looking over your shoulder, peering into shadows to see who is there, creepy. Other scenes are damn frightening. Let me put it to you this way: weaponized ghosts of babies who are hungry and out to devour you. Borderline nightmare stuff. What really works about this novel, and the “Bone Street Rumba” series as a whole, is that none of the scares are cheap. Every scare is legitimate. Every scare is necessary to the tale. This is evidence of Older’s mastery of his narrative.
A spoiler free endorsement.
Daniel José Older is the type of writer that forces you to reevaluate your likes and dislikes for particular (sub)-genres. Up until I read Half-Resurrection Blues, I declared a moratorium on anything even resembling urban fantasy. Most urban fantasy almost supernaturally privileges European myth/folk/legend and leaves zero room for stories or influences from other cultures. Fairy court intrigues, battles amongst the Sidhe, and some kind of blonde or “flowing raven haired” chosen one or outcast or bi-species offspring rule the urban fantasy space to such a degree that reading these books feels like looking at a “No Melanin Allowed” billboard written in fairy dust. With Half-Resurrection Blues, though, Older makes a very bold departure.