With the third and clearly not final installment of the Phillip Fetch Archives, this series has become the only fantasy cop series that I actually endorse. Many fantasy cop books I have read tend to be problematic from a conceptual standpoint. They love to take the fun part of detective tropes and meld it with cool worldbuilding, without actually acknowledging the problematic realities of real-life police enforcement. One Foot in the Fade is the third example that Luke Arnold is trying to do more with his series than be entertaining or edgy. They have substance, interesting commentary, and thrilling storytelling that elevate them over most of the other fantasy cop stories I have read.
For those of you unfamiliar with this series, please check out my reviews of the earlier books here and here. The general premise is a world where humans and magical fantasy creatures coexist. The humans were tired of being looked down on so they broke the magic of the world and it deformed and warped every magical creature alive. Fetch was a member of the magical UN who had a difficult life and for arguably reasonable reasons ended up defecting to the human side of the conflict (which he later comes to regret). After playing a major part in how the magic of the world was destroyed, Fetch starts a quest to bring the magic back for reasons both noble and selfish. Each book in this series follows a different lead Fetch has to revive the magic-using detective work. In particular, One Foot in the Fade is about Fetch following up on legends about a Djinn who may have retained their powers through the fall of magic.
The real bread and butter of this series is turning out to be moral complexity. Luke Arnold is really good at presenting very unpleasant and difficult situations that don’t feel like they have a clear right choice and then deep-diving into the options and the psyche of the characters making the choice. In this way, we are starting to see a very strange sort of character development for Fetch that is more akin to a descent into madness. Every decision he makes is carving off a piece of his soul and breaking a new part of him, and by book three, the fractures are clearly starting to add up. Fetch feels like a man who has been worn down by the world and in the context, it feels earned.
But something I really like about Arnold is that he doesn’t like to wallow in shock value or misery. His writing acknowledges the awful in the world and explores the damage it does, while simultaneously always looking for a solution and exploring a way upward. These books manage to be upsetting while not sliding into misery porn. The difficulties have a point beyond making the reader bummed out while making the sad stories more memorable and moving in hindsight. I also find myself enormously invested in Fetch’s story, no matter where it goes. He is a fairly difficult protagonist to like but I have come to understand and respect him despite his less than shining track record. This once again keeps in the theme of the book, moral complexity, that Arnold delivers on in every aspect of the reading experience.
The Fetch Phillip Archives is a detective series with a lot of modern substance and sensibility. One Foot in the Fade is yet another engaging step into madness for our protagonist Fetch and his story is both hard to read and rewarding to observe. I continue to like this series more and more as I read more of it. If you are looking for a cop/detective series that offers more than a mindless distraction, check these books out.
Rating: One Foot in the Fade – 9.0/10
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.