A Witch Steps into My Office: A Noir Urban Fantasy Novel (Alexander Southerland, P.I. Book 2) by Douglas Lumsden - Book Review

Write on: Tue, 24 Nov 2020 by  in Assaph's Reviews Read 2007

Lumsden's previous novel left me wanting more, so it didn't take me long to delve into this second book in the series. Nor was I disappointed - this is an excellent sequel, even better than the previous.

What to Expect

Expect a story that reads like Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett, but with mobile phones and magic. This is the second noir urban-fantasy case for Alex Sutherland. This novel has even more of the hard-boiled atmosphere that before, from slang and aesthetics to the pace and crime aspects, as well as deeper world-building. This time Alex is given to solve a murder before it takes place - but which he can't prevent from happening. Naturally the mystery gets complicated, with few leads but plenty of human-emotional angles.

What I liked

Loved the writing style (I do like the classic hard-boiled detectives), from the characterisation to the language. Lumsden does an excellent job of adhering the genre aesthetics, while keeping it fresh and current (as our culture has moved on since the times the classics were written). 

The magic system is very interesting, as is the world in general. Lumsden has chosen a Meso-American backdrop, which is refreshing, and his treatment of were-creatures is wonderfully unique. No mean feat, bringing it all seamlessly together.

What to be aware of

This is the second book of the series. While it can be read first (there are only some passing references to events in the previous books), I do think Lumsden has an over-arching, long-running plan (one I'm very much interested in seeing!), so perhaps best read in order. 

Also, noir detectives are not everyone's cup of tea. This is an excellent example of the best of the genre, just know what you're getting into.

Felix's Review

Felix is also eagerly waiting Alex's next adventure. Despite the time and culture separating their background, it seems like they share several characteristics and would enjoy swapping stories over wine (Felix is curious as to what that "Scotch" thing is). Felix particularly liked Alex's doggedness in chasing clues, and his brilliance in putting them all together.


If you love the detective side of urban fantasy (rather than thriller or romance), then you absolutely have to read this novel! I am very eagerly awaiting the next one in the series.


Enjoying the reviews, but wondering who the heck is that Felix fellow? Glad you asked! He's the protagonist of the Toags, Daggers, and Magic series, an historical-fantasy blend of a paranormal detective on the background of ancient Rome.


Last modified on Saturday, 08 May 2021 05:58

Assaph has been a bibliophile since he learnt to read at the age of five, and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy - he whinged horribly when they dragged him to "yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling", yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art. 

He has since been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago he randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis' Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin. 

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, kids, cats, and - this being Australia - assorted spiders. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he's writing - he seems to do his best writing after midnight.



Twitter: @assaphmehr