Even Though I Knew The End
Somewhat later than usual, it is Hugo reading time. As is generally the case these days, the novella category is the hardest to judge. Normally voting for Nghi Vo would be easy, but the Adrian Tchaikovsky story is great too, and the Alix Harrow is a lot of fun. I have three to read, and this one was first on the list.
I guess a genre definition of Even Though I Knew the End would be something like Gumshoe Lesbian Vampire Hunters meets Good Omens. Helen Brandt is a detective, a sorcerer, and a former member of the Freemasons, er, sorry, Brotherhood of the Compass. She got thrown out of the order because she sold her soul to the Devil in order to save her brother’s life. Such debts are payable in 10 years, and Helen has only a few days left to live. But one of the advantages of being known in Hell is that you attract interesting clientele. Someone in Chicago committing terrible magical crimes, and Helen’s wealthy patron, Marlowe, wants them caught. The payment, if successful, will be the return Helen’s soul.
This will be very timely. Helen hasn’t told her devoutly Catholic girlfriend, Edith, that she has only a few days to live. Edith has just landed a plush job in San Francisco and is making plans for the pair of them to move out West together. So the serial killer known as the White City Vampire has to be caught.
It gets more complicated from there.
This is a fine little story, and one that I am very pleased to see as a Hugo finalist. In addition to the above, C L Polk throws in some of the sort of Christian mythology you used to find in Storm Constantine stories. I can’t say too much more about that without creating dreadful spoilers, but it is nicely done.
What I can say is that possession features in the story, and that this can break the mind of the victim leading to incarceration in a mental hospital. This gives Polk the opportunity to go on an extended rant about the terrible way mental health diagnoses are used as a form of social control, about the awfulness of aversion therapy, and about the contempt that male psychiatrists have for women (especially queer women). This wasn’t strictly necessary to the plot, but I could have stood up and applauded at that point.
I have two more novellas to read, both by hugely popular writers. Goodness only knows how I am going to decide on my votes.
Title: Even Though I Knew the End
By: C L Polk
Publisher: St Martin's Press
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