I appreciate having had an opportunity to read and review this book. The appeal of this particular book was not evident to me, and if I cannot file a generally positive review I prefer simply to advise the publisher to that effect and file no review at all.
Set in 1909, Artie Quick is a sales assistant who aspires to learn more about criminal investigation. She signs up for a course at the YMCA and borrows her brother's suit to try and disguise herself. However the course is cancelled and Artie tries to contact the professor to discover why. She finds out the professor's daughter was taken and is missing, which leads Artie to think this is part of a larger pattern of abductions. Along with her friend Theodore, Artie investigates the abductions and ends up meeting a magician who might be involved. The mystery grows when they uncover a link between the abductions, magic, the local police, and a home for the elderly. Artie and Theodore do what they can to prevent any more girls from being taken. Overall, an intriguing mystery featuring a main character who is trying to find themself, while also pursuing their studies and their passion. The switch from human based mystery to supernatural based mystery was a bit jarring, as was the ending with Artie's future self crashing in.
In RELENTLESS MELT, by Jeremy P. Bushnell, we find Artie Quick, an eager young Bostonian who wants to learn everything they can about criminal investigation. In 1909, however, the only classes available in criminal studies are for men, so Artie dresses in a suit and begins a course where the teacher, who immediately can identify Artie's truth, is also impressed with Artie's attention to detail and keen observation skills. Artie, along with her close friend Theodore, discover rumors of disappearances and Artie is quick to start using her newly acquired knowledge. She and Theodore uncover a much larger conspiracy than they thought and the supernatural reality they find is shockingly scary. Artie and Theodore enlist some unlikely allies and try to end this otherworldly terror for good, but will they succeed?
Bushnell does a good job of taking the reader to 1909/1910 Boston by how clear the physical descriptions are and atmospheric tone is of the time. Artie is a fascinating character, she is trying to find out who she wants to be with not only the wardrobe changes, but in finding what inspires her. The things she is exposed to in the novel really change her and help her to grow as person and what she becomes in the end is so much more than what she was when the book began. The book slows down in the middle and the reader could begin to lose interest, but the end of the book, with a surprising supernatural twist, really takes the reader on a ride and leaves the door open for future books involving Artie.
RELENTLESS MELT is a really fun story the poses some interesting questions about loyalty, family and gender acceptance, I suggest that fans of period detectives novels, science fictions fans, and anyone wanting to read a well plotted, entertaining, and unpredictable book should pick this on up.
My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Melville House Publishing for an advanced copy of this book of horror and of discovery, both of what a person truly is, and how bad the world can be.
Cities are large and impersonal. Streets don't care about people, their well being, who they are, nor what they do. A person can use this form of indifference to an advantage, though. One can almost make a life, one that is far different than the current one. Where a young man, who might not that young or a man, can seek to embetter themselves, to learn a new way of looking at the world, in a way of solving a mystery in their past. However with new skills, come new ways of looking at things, and an understanding that maybe impersonal cities prey on those who are never seen, and and an evil that is ancient is still as deadly. Relentless Melt by Jeremy P. Bushnell is a story about a person testing investigatory skills, and finding a world just under the surface, that is far darker than they ever expected.
Artie Quick is a young woman on the go, living in the year of 1909 in Boston with her alcoholic father, her damaged mother, and the spectre of her missing brother. By day Artie works at the women's accessories table at Filene's whose magnificant Basement has been a hit, giving her lots to do during the day. Retail is not that fulfilling to her mind, and Artie in an effort to find her brother and to do something with her life, puts on her brother's clothes, and begins attending classes on Criminal Investigation at the local YMCA. Artie's friend Theodore is the scion of a Boston family that has more money than duties. Theodore dabbles in art, photography and magic, and has a suggestion for Artie. There was a scream in the park. Let us investigate. Soon Artie and her friend are gifted a tooth, stop a kidnapping, find a tree that is growing wrong and more mysteries. And this only the start of the strange that puts their lives in danger.
A mystery, horror story, historical fiction urban romance, and a story about a young girl finding out about herself, in a time were conformity wasn't just a rule, it was. Bushnell has a very good feel for the times, comments about dance halls, Filene's the park, clothing, retail environments, all seem real and give a great sense of feeling to the story. There is a lot of plot and a lot of ideas, but it is the characters that really make the story. Artie is fun, different, sad, scared, brave and discovering things about herself and the world that never would have occurred or even crossed her mind. There are scenes that are scary, but scenes that are just beautiful, and rewarding. The Lovecraft feeling is strong, the weirdness of trees, magic and other things add well to the story also. A very fun story that aims very high and delivers on everything.
Recommended for people who enjoy strong women characters, a bit of ghoulishness, a tad of gross, and like historical fiction stories. Again Bushnell really captures the time, and the place, which is rare in stories like this. I can't wait to read more by Jeremy P. Bushnell.
My review of Relentless Melt for Kirkus Reviews https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jeremy-p-bushnell/relentless-melt/ (posted online 4/10/23; in print 5/1/23)
Bushnell’s third novel blends an atmospheric supernatural mystery with an intriguing exploration of gender identity.
In 1909 Boston, 17-year-old Artie Quick works as a salesgirl in Filene's Tunnel Bargain Basement, the recently opened overflow shop. But on Wednesday evenings she disguises herself as a man, slicking back her cropped black hair with pomade filched from the men's counter and wearing her estranged brother Zeb’s old suit, to attend Professor Winchell’s course on Criminal Investigation at the YMCA’s Evening Institute for Young Men. Although Winchell, a police detective, easily outs Artie after the first class, he is impressed by her “keen investigative mind” and refuses to expel his bright student. Eager to practice what she has learned, Artie and her friend Theodore, an eccentric upper-class bachelor and student of magic, head to Boston Common to investigate a mysterious scream heard the previous evening. When they stop an attempted abduction of a young woman and Artie’s class is abruptly canceled, the duo probe further into a series of unsolved kidnappings and gradually uncover a malevolent conspiracy that leads from City Hall to an abandoned subway tunnel construction site that may house an ancient evil. Bushnell keeps his fantastical elements light but believable, focusing instead on the affectionate (but not romantic or sexual) friendship between Artie and Theodore, two appealing social misfits who together “navigate the world better than either of them could alone.” Also compelling is Artie’s gradual recognition of her real self (“not exactly a man, but maybe something other than a girl”) as she grows more comfortable in her suit and enjoys the freedom it allows. Unfortunately, the abrupt deus ex machina ending undermines Artie’s budding agency and gives the impression the author didn't know how to finish his novel.
An entertaining urban fantasy.
This book was so great and weird. Loved it! Jeremy Bushnell is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.
I reviewed for Library Journal here: https://www.libraryjournal.com/review/relentless-melt-1798047
Reviews of average books are always difficult to write. This is a slightly above average novel. Some of the writing shows great promise and emotional investment, However, as a whole, this novel just didn’t resinate with me,
Artie Quick, the protagonist, is a young girl of lower-class means working in the newly opened Filene’s basement as a shopgirl. However, she longs to learn about the Criminal Element, This leads her to impersonate a man to attend a criminology class only offered at the YMCA. Her best friend and sidekick is Theodore, who is upper class and seems to be independently wealthy.
What starts out as a turn of the century detective novel turns into a supernatural adventure about two thirds through. Artie and Theodore uncover a conspiracy of female kidnappings where the only girls taken are those that “wouldn’t be missed”.
It is billed as part detective and part “Stranger Things”. The last portion of the novel definitely seems like the latter. The writing here is descriptive and powerful. But it also doesn’t seem to gel with the tone of the rest of the novel.
The novel touches on many cliched themes, but doesn’t really explore any of them in great detail. Class discrepancies, gender identity, female empowerment and gender inequality are all present, But they seem to be just brushed on, not truly ingrained into the characters. However, there are certain parts of the novel that are written well. There was clear research into historical data and I did learn some things. Certain sentences I notated because they were excellent, Unfortunately there aren’t nearly enough of them.
I can also see that this could be yet another unnecessary franchise, given the way that it ended, Unfortunately it needs to add more weight and dimension. There is foundation here, I just think it could use some polish.
Truly a fantastic read, funny, enchanting and damn right thrilling. Reminiscent of the somnambulist in scope.
Supernatural detective trillerset in 1910 Boston that introduces us to Artie Quick, a would be detective and Theodore a novice magician. They are on the trail of missing girls, shady politicians and her own criminal brother but are the missing girls connected to the deranged god from another era that resides below the city? This is a terrific book which I assume is the first in a new series, what fun.
"The desire to learn...is nothing more than a desire to observe...footprints found in the dust of the highway...the wheels of carriages...pressure on the grass where someone has sat...little pieces of paper...displaced stones...marks or injuries on trees. Everything will afford opportunity for drawing conclusions...The most familiar environments contain a host of detail from which we have become estranged...once again become reconciled...explaining what must previously have taken place."
Artie Quick, salesgirl in women's accessories in Filene's Basement, had a "keen, inquisitive mind." Determined to learn about criminal investigation, she enrolled in a 13 week course run by a retired policeman. Outfitted in a man's suit, she hoped this ruse would allow her to attend class. In the year 1909, change was in the air as evidenced by the electric street lights recently installed, however, the changes did not include women being hired by the Boston PD. The sudden cancellation of the CI course meant Artie must be extra alert and extra observant when a mysterious, unearthly scream was heard on the Boston Common. All it took was one class to pique her interest and here was the opportunity to practice what she had learned.
Theodore Reed, an eccentric bachelor, "a collector of interesting people", lived in a townhouse. He enjoyed capturing ghostly images through the double exposure of film using his Brownie camera. His interest in the occult had led him to pursue magic. He hoped to learn spells and enchantments.
Artie and Theo, two odd people, "each of them realized that together they could navigate the world better than either of them could alone." They met at night on the Boston Commons, setting out to find something to investigate. Their starting point was "a sustained, distressed, wordless scream...Every object and every shadow in the [Public Garden] begins to take on a menacing charge...They walk the paths of the Commons, senses heightened...What kind of evidence gets left behind by a scream?"
"Relentless Melt" by Jeremy Bushnell is a supernatural thriller set during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. A twenty-something duo, newbies to the workings of criminal investigation and magic spells, will bolster each other's ideas and try to dispel each other's hesitancies while they try to solve an eerie crime. The criminal act includes murder, abduction, high level corruption and an excavated, but abandoned mass transit tunnel. What about the red maple tree in the Boston Commons, a tree planted along with other red maples? In the last week, this one tree had doubled in size and age. Why was an abandoned tunnel surrounded by fencing and guarded by a policeman? The tension and body count mounts, the screams continue. Can Artie and Theo untangle the web that seems to hold Boston in its grasp? Highly recommended.
Thank you Melville House Publishing and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.