By Tim Powers
Amazon.com says: Koot Parganas has stolen [deleted by moi], preserved in a hidden glass vial. Now he's on the run through the dark underside of Los Angeles, among characters who extend their lives and enhance their power by catching and absorbing the ghosts of the recently dead. Like The Anubis Gates and On Stranger Tides, this fantasy has an astonishing power that remains long after the last page is turned.
You can see that I've deleted what Koot has stolen, but it's easy to find out -- it's written on the back cover. However, you'll want to skip over that and find out on your own what Kootie has. The discovery comes around page 200 or so, and there are a few neat clues laid before it's revealed. By listing what Kootie has does a disservice to the story being told.
Tim has an interesting writing style and a few interesting characters. However, there is a problem -- two out of the three main characters aren't really that interesting. Neither is power-broker Obstat (I believe that's his name), who's in the book only momentarily although Powers tries to make him a key player. One of the main characters of the book appears twice, on her way to California, not advancing the plot. It's odd to wonder why she's in the book at that point. By the time I was halfway through the book, I was convinced she was included to add a love interest. By the time I ended the book, I realized that I was correct.
But besides a few characters that seem unappealing, there is a lot to recommend about this book. Tim Powers takes modern-day Los Angeles and creates an entire hidden culture that, quite honestly, hasn't been seen by this reviewer. In addition, he has an engaging writing style.
The only odd thing about book structure is Powers splits the book into four sections -- three "books" and one "epilogue". However, the epilogue isn't one. At the end of "book three", a minor subplot is resolved, but it's like saying Star Wars was over when the heroes delivered the Death Star plans to the Rebel Alliance. The whole assault on the Death Star was the epilogue.