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Literature / Eddie LaCrosse

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Eddie LaCrosse is the central character of a series of Fantasy novels by Alex Bledsoe. Eddie is a Hardboiled Detective in a fantasy setting, and as such, the series mostly falls within the Fantastic Noir sub-genre (although exactly how much varies a bit from book to book).

So far, there are five books:

  • The Sword-Edged Blonde (2007)
  • Burn Me Deadly (2009)
  • Dark Jenny (2011)
  • Wake of the Bloody Angel (2012)
  • He Drank, and Saw the Spider (2014)

The books are largely self-contained, rather than being instalments of an ongoing story. Some characters carry across, but there's nobody but Eddie who has a major role in more than two. They're not in chronological order, either — one book is a Whole Episode Flashback, and others use flashbacks extensively.

This series provides examples of:

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  • Animals Hate Him: Eddie tends to believe this of himself, and has particular difficulty with horses. He does, however, gradually reach an understanding with Lola, the horse he ends up keeping for a while.
  • Blue Blood: Eddie is officially Baron Edward LaCrosse of Arentia, and an old friend of the king, but he lives in self-imposed exile after a monumental mistake (gradually revealed over the course of the first book). However, he doesn't quite fit the normal pattern of an Impoverished Patrician, because it's deliberate and he doesn't really regret it — but at the same time, he's not a Defector from Decadence, since it wasn't decadence that led him to leave. (And King Phil is a nice guy anyway.)
  • Brainless Beauty: Callie, a minor but recurring character who works as a barmaid at the inn where Eddie bases himself. She's very attractive and very sweet, but not too smart.
    Even dressed in winter clothes that covered her from chin to ankle, Callie’s beauty could melt icicles at ten paces. It was a shame those same icicles could probably outthink her.
  • Fantastic Noir: The basic concept of the series is to put a Hardboiled Detective in a Sword and Sorcery and/or Low Fantasy world. Reviewers have compared Eddie to Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. That said, the degree to which individual books fit this sub-genre can vary a bit — Wake of the Bloody Angel, for example, could actually be considered a pirate story.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Eddie is this kind of private investigator, not one in the Holmesian model. Irreverent, jaded, and cynical — although not, in the end, as uncaring as he tends to appear.
  • Low Fantasy: The series has elements of this, although people also put it in the Sword and Sorcery sub-genre (which is typically not considered low fantasy). It probably varies a bit from book to book exactly which label is best. Supernatural elements definitely exist in the series, but they tend to be relatively rare — there aren't wizard flinging fireballs on every page, and the primary antagonists are non-magical and human.
  • Mysterious Past: Angelina, the proprietor of the inn above which Eddie has his office (and therefore one of the few recurring characters), doesn't talk about her past — enough so that Eddie's shorthand for "mind your own business" is to ask her an innocuous about her own background, reminding her that since he doesn't pry, nor should she. This lasts until the fourth book, which involves her past — in fact, the ship in the book's title is her namesake.
  • Not-So-Safe Harbor: Neceda, where Eddie bases himself, is a version of this. It's a small-ish river port rather than a sea port, but has a lot of the same characteristics, with a large population of disreputable passers-through looking to get drunk and/or laid.
  • Private Detective: Eddie's basic source of income. Tracking people down seems to be a major part of it. He also did less detective-y mercenary work in the past, but moved away from it.
  • Sword and Sorcery: The series is sometimes placed in this sub-genre, although it's sometimes closer to Low Fantasy than other works called sword-and-sorcery (depending a bit on exactly which book you look at). The protagonist is too cynical and irreverent to be a classic hero, and there's a definite lack of the kind of glory-and-honour stuff you might find in conventional High Fantasy.

     The Sword-Edged Blonde
The first book. Eddie, a former courtier who has lived in self-imposed exile for years, is persuaded to return to his homeland to help his old friend Phil — or as he's more widely known, King Phillip. Phil's wife, Queen Rhiannon, stands accused of killing their baby son in a gruesome magical ritual, and just about everyone thinks the case against her is solid — except King Phil himself, who still loves his wife and thinks someone is trying to frame her. Rhiannon herself has always claimed to be an amnesiac, unable to remember anything of her life before meeting Phil, but when Eddie meets her, he's sure he recognises her as someone from his own past. The book follows Eddie's attempts to link the current situation with weird and unpleasant things in his own experiences that he'd rather forget about.

  • Annoying Arrows: Played with a bit. First, Eddie meets "Spike" (real name Allison), who has an arrow permanently stuck in her neck — she has been advised that removing it would probably kill her, so she tries to make the best of it. Later, when Eddie shoots Canino, it appears that Canino might survive, but another character who wants Canino dead pulls the arrow out so that the wound will bleed, making it fatal after all.
  • Batman Cold Open: The book begins with Eddie being hired for a relatively typical assignment: retrieve a teenage aristocratic runaway who has fallen in with the wrong crowd in a rough border town. This serves to show the kind of unglamorous thing that Eddie normally does, before the book moves on to the main plot (which involves royal infanticide, cults, and goddesses.)
  • Become a Real Boy: The goddess of horses made three attempts to live like a human. The first and second attempts went wrong. The third attempt was to incarnate as Rhiannon, making herself an amnesiac so that she could live free of any memory of being a goddess. However, the fact that she can't remember doesn't mean that she can't be found by someone who hates her from her first disastrous attempt.
  • Camp Gay: Tanko, the interior decorator who gives Eddie information about the villain's lair, deliberately adopts this image because it's expected of his job (and because his rich male clients wouldn't let their wives near him otherwise). He is genuinely gay, but not inclined to be flamboyant.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Andrew Reese was the violent version of this — pleasant enough company when sober, but a violent would-be rapist as soon as he got hold of liquor. It's the root cause of all his troubles, and therefore, of the whole book.
  • Due to the Dead: To test a theory that Phil's son wasn't actually killed in the supposed ritual, Eddie wants to crack open the tomb. Objections are raised on the grounds that it wouldn't be proper, but Phil agrees to it — and insists on being present, since then he'll know it was done respectfully. Eddie was right; the bones, on inspection, aren't those of a human baby.
  • Flashback B-Plot: As Eddie makes his way to a small village in the mountains, the book alternates between Eddie's journey in the present and his recollections of his first journey, years ago.
  • Friend on the Force: Bernie, one of Eddie's old mercenary comrades, is now head of law enforcement in a city where Eddie needs to find a certain criminal. They naturally help each other out, but don't end up fully in accord — there's a supernatural aspect to the criminal which Eddie doesn't want to reveal. Bernie indicates that he'll probably get over his irritation eventually, but right now, it would be best for Eddie to leave town.
  • The Good Chancellor: Emerson Wentrobe, advisor to King Phillip, is loyal, helpful, and dutiful.
  • The Good King: King Phillip of Arentia (Phil, to the protagonist) is the popular ruler of a prosperous, peaceful kingdom (which contrasts with much of the rest of the world). This is relevant in determining the villain's motive.
    Eddie: Somewhere out there, you've got one hell of an enemy.
    King Phil: Who? Arentia hasn't been at war for nearly fifty years. The crime rate's lower than it has ever been. We don't even have a death penalty anymore. And I don't mean to sound egomaniacal, but everybody seems pretty happy with the job I've been doing.
  • Heroism Won't Pay the Bills: Self-inflicted, but nevertheless present. Eddie won't let King Phil do anything more than cover his expenses on the case, since Phil's an old friend. Moreover, it turns out that the smaller case at the start of the book has moral issues which prevent Eddie from finishing it, so he refunds that money too. A nice-but-tactless barmaid wonders if he's in the right job.
  • Hidden Elf Village: In the extended flashback that makes up a considerable portion of the book, Eddie accompanied a messenger to a small community hidden in the mountains, cut off from just about everything (and centred on the worship of a certain living goddess). The arrival of the messenger turns out to mean the destruction of the village, since it was a signal to a mercenary secretly embedded there for that purpose.
  • Human Sacrifice: Since Queen Rhiannon was found with what appeared to be the remnants of a baby in a pot surrounded by occult runes, the obvious conclusion is that she killed her son as part of a magical/religious ritual. She didn't — the baby was kidnapped and the Queen was framed.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Queen Rhiannon stands accused of boiling and partly eating her own child as part of an occult ritual. Since she was found with a pot containing bones, was coughing up chunks of meat, and the baby was nowhere to be found, most people consider the case against her to be airtight, but her husband the King refuses to believe it. She didn't do it; someone just went to a lot of trouble to make it appear so.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Queen Rhiannon has always claimed to have no memories of anything whatsoever before the day she met her future husband, King Phillip. This doesn't matter much until she's accused of infanticide and black magic, which naturally raises questions about her character and history. It turns out that she doesn't have any memories from before that because she wasn't originally human, being a goddess who deliberately chose to incarnate as a human without any memory of who she really was.
  • Malevolent Mutilation: Andrew Reese (a.k.a. "the Dwarf") was disfigured, broken, and deformed, being physically twisted into a new shape which left him in permanent pain but unable to die. It was a punishment after he tried to rape someone who was actually a goddess in human form and was then dumb enough to take his anger out on an animal she cared for.
  • My Greatest Failure: Eddie is haunted by... well, several things, but the biggest is the time he let his girlfriend (a princess, no less) be attacked and killed by a band of thugs. Most people think his failure was just not being able to protect her, but it turns out his culpability was greater than that — Eddie was actually the one who escalated the confrontation to violence, out of pride and desire to impress his girlfriend.
  • Offing the Offspring: Queen Rhiannon is accused of doing this to her baby son as part of a ritual, but the King doesn't believe it and gets Eddie to investigate.
  • Rebellious Princess: The small job Eddie takes at the start of the book is to retrieve a princess who has either been kidnapped by bandits or else run away with them due to foolish notions of romance. It turns out that she's neither kidnapped not deluded — she's not really the biological daughter of the king in question, and consequently has an unhappy life which she's trying to get away from.
  • Replacement Goldfish: It actually takes years, but due to flashbacks, it seems quicker. Eddie's attraction to Cathy Dumont was cut short when she is murdered along with everyone else in town, but later, someone with the ability to arrange such things arranges for Liz, Cathy's sister to walk right in. Eddie realises that Cathy and Liz aren't the same person, but since Cathy wasn't actually as right for him as he might have thought, that isn't necessarily a problem.
  • Ritual Magic: What Queen Rhiannon's apparent infanticide looks like it was in aid of. In fact, there was no infanticide and no ritual — Eddie notes quite quickly that the "runes" which were used don't have the same characteristics of real ones he's seen, and suspects that any proper cultist would think they were gibberish.
  • Taking You with Me: When Canino gets shot, Gretchen pulls the arrow out to ensure that he bleeds to death. This leaves Canino enough time to stab her before he goes, but she doesn't seem to care.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Done to a whole village by Stan Carnahan, who had been paid by Andrew Reese to hang out there for months until a certain signal was given. The poison doesn't kill directly, but incapacitates well enough that one person can kill the whole lot without resistance.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: This was part of the curse placed on Andrew Reese, the main antagonist — he lives for ever, but since he has also been twisted into a horribly painful form, he considers this a very bad thing indeed.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Part of Canino's Establishing Character Moment is to viciously assault his girlfriend Gretchen, who he apparently had a good relationship with (and who certainly didn't see it coming). He did it just to make a point to Eddie — if he's willing to be that needlessly brutal to someone he mostly likes, how much worse is Eddie going to have it?

     Burn Me Deadly
The second book, taking place not too long after the first. Eddie is asked for help by a woman he meets on the road, but the pair of them are promptly jumped by thugs — the woman dies after being unsuccessfully tortured for information, and Eddie himself is left for dead. When he comes to, he's naturally keen to track down the people responsible and do something about it, but since he doesn't know who they were or what they wanted, it's rather difficult. At the same time, a weird religious group is moving into town, backed for no obvious reason by a nasty crime boss and incognito royalty. Also, Eddie's girlfriend isn't being honest with him about something. Naturally, it's all connected.

  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Eddie has seen stranger things than dragons, but is adamant that dragons can't possibly exist, and that Father Tempcott's cult therefore consists of gullible morons. Dragons do, in fact, exist - although by the end of the book, they probably don't any more.
  • Book Ends: of a sort. After the opening scenes of the book, Eddie is beaten to a pulp and spends a lot of time healing in the local temple of the Moon Goddess. At the book's climax, Liz is beaten and tortured and spends a lot of time (though not nearly as much time as Eddie did, she points out) healing in the same temple - where all the staff know their names because of Eddie's long visit.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Eddie meets a family who live away from civilisation due to the firm belief that, one day soon, the allegedly iron-fisted King Archibald is going to come and take everything they own. In reality, Archibald is rather ineffectual, quite a long way away, and wouldn't really care one way or another about the survivalists. It turns out that the husband is actually a hypocrite about it, visiting the market in town from time to time without telling his wife. It causes... marital difficulties.
    Bella Lou: You were at the market? In town? [throws things at him] Completely self-sufficient, you said. Never let anyone even know we're here, you said. And now I find out you've been going to the market in town regularly?
    Buddy: [steps back] Well, I had to—
    Bella Lou: You had to lie to me? To our children? You had to do that? We live knee-deep in goat shit and dead leaves, and you sneak off to town?
  • Cult: Father Tempcott's group are basically a dragon cult, believing that dragons are real and will return to burn the whole world apart from the few faithful. They're a little bit right, since dragons are real and eggs have indeed survived, but they're wrong about dragons being basically gods — they're smart animals, and wouldn't care about cultists.
  • Dirty Cop: Gary Bunson, Neceda's law officer, is quite bribable. However, he's not particularly evil about it — it's driven more by laziness and self-preservation than active greed, and while he's seldom useful, he doesn't do any harm. It briefly looks like he might break this pattern by hanging someone who Eddie thinks is innocent (or at least, coerced), but it turns out that Gary didn't actually have that one wrong. Eddie still thinks Gary didn't deserve a medal for it, though:
    Eddie: Gary, the killer came to you and confessed. You basically did nothing.
    Gary: Yes, and I did it with alacrity and tact. I have a parchment that says so.
    Eddie: And your conscience is okay with this?
    Gary: [trying not to laugh] Eddie, I sold my conscience for a night with a trail whore when I was fifteen. Haven't seen it since, and wouldn't know what to do with it if it turned up. [plays with medal]. I also got a raise.
  • King Incognito: It turns out that "Nicky", whose infiltration of Tempcott's cult collides with Eddie's own, is actually Princess Veronica, trying to keep her brother Frederick in hand.
  • Mercy Kill: At the end, Eddie kills Doug Candora, who has never-healing dragon burns all over him, on the grounds that even someone that evil shouldn't be left in that condition.
  • Shout-Out: The title is a reference to the film Kiss Me Deadly (itself an adaptation of the almost-identically titled book, Kiss Me, Deadly. It starts with pretty much the same scenario — the protagonist giving assistance to a strange woman, then barely surviving an attack in which she dies. Even the bit about being pushed into a ravine with the woman's corpse is replicated, only Eddie is pushed along with a horse rather than a car.
    • There's also one to the movie of The Maltese Falcon: the dragon eggs are often referred to as 'the fire that dreams are made of'. The final line of the movie (though not the book) is 'the stuff that dreams are made of', which is in turn a slightly mangled quote from Shakespeare's The Tempest.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Averted — most things are connected, but not everything. Eddie assumes that the murder of Mother Bennings was orchestrated by the same people whose attack Mother Bennings healed him from, and not the marginally-connected guy who Gary Bunson is planning to execute. In fact, it really is the open-and-shut case Gary thinks it is, and the killer's choice of victim had nothing to do with a connection to Eddie.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Prince Frederick is known to only care about "drink, women, and games of chance, in that order" — which makes it surprising that he attends and supports Father Tempcott's dragon cult, and does seem to genuinely want Tempcott's approval. (Not enough to refrain from going into town and getting drunk, but enough to regret it afterwards). The need to deal with Frederick's foolishness is the primary reason his sister, Princess Veronica, is also present incognito — and why she's intending to depose him one day.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Those who believe in dragons say that burns from their fire never heal and never stop hurting, no matter how much time passes. They're right. In fact, just touching an egg is sufficient, as one character who must now permanently wear gloves could attest.

     Dark Jenny
The third book, mostly consisting of a large Flashback to a time before the first book (but with Eddie telling the story to his friends in the present as a Framing Device). Eddie was performing a minor job in the island kingdom of Grand Braun, and would mostly like to just leave again, but gets caught up in local intrigue when Queen Jennifer is accused of murder and adultery — with some saying that he himself was involved, to boot. Since the whole thing could easily turn to civil war, he's ordered to sort it out whether he likes it or not.

  • Darker and Edgier: not that the series is exactly a sunlit meadow in springtime at the best of times, but the sheer scale of hearbreak and devastation that occurs over the course of the plot easily makes Dark Jenny the most harrowing installment
  • Foregone Conclusion: Eddie's flashback of visiting Grand Braun shows it to be a beacon of civilisation and good government. However, the Framing Device which introduces that flashback tells us that in the present, Grand Braun is "primarily known as the site of the most vicious ongoing civil war in the world", and that "more than half its population had fled or been killed, and the land was overrun with invaders, mercenaries and pirates". As such, we know quite well that things are going to go downhill, and that Eddie will probably be involved somehow. Not to mention, if you were reading Burn Me Deadly carefully, you might remember a couple of throwaway references to Grand Braun and Dark Jenny.
  • Foreshadowing: it's right there in the title. The main reason to have a name paired with an identifier - like say, 'dark' paired with 'jenny' is because there is more than one person by that name!
  • Genius Bonus: given the Whole-Plot Reference (see below): if you've read Mercedes Lackey's book Gwenhwyfar, or are otherwise familiar with the Welsh tradition that King Arthur had more than one queen named Guinevere the twist that there are two Queen Jennifers might not be so shocking to you.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The plot has extensive parallels to the story of King Arthur. Grand Braun is basically Britain (and its capital, Nodlon, is an anagram of London). Marcus Drake is Arthur; Elliot Spears is Lancelot. Belacrux is Excalibur (a near-anagram). There's a Merlin, a Morgan le Fay, and so forth. Perhaps the major difference is that there are secretly two Guineveres. Or not: see Genius Bonus above.

     Wake of the Bloody Angel
The fourth book, set after all the previous ones (but with mostly new characters, aside from Eddie). It starts when Eddie gets hired by Angelina, owner of the tavern which he frequents (and which his office is above). She wants him to determine the fate of Edward Tew, a notorious pirate who, twenty years ago, happened to be Angelina's lover. Nobody knows what happened to him, but lots of people have tried to find out, since wherever he went, he supposedly took a huge treasure with him. To figure it out, Eddie teams up with Jane Argo, a former colleague now captaining an anti-piracy patrol ship, and sets out to sea.

  • Double-Meaning Title: While "Wake of the Bloody Angel" most obviously refers to following the trail of the so-named pirate ship, the book is also about the less-than-noble past of Angelina, who sets Eddie on the mission to start with.
  • Sea Monster: A lot of ships are going missing, and people think it's either pirates or this. It turns out to be a bit of both, with pirates having figured out a way to use a sea monster to set a trap.
  • Pirate: Whereas the other books are broadly detective stories, this one could be considered a pirate story. Aside from Edward Tew, whose fate (and treasure) is the object of many people's searches, there are also other pirates still active, too.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Near the end, Eddie meets a woman who Edward Tew held captive because she resembled Angelina, who was no longer with him.

     He Drank, and Saw the Spider
The fifth book. It starts with a flashback to Eddie's mercenary years, when he saved a baby girl with a strange tattoo (and who tattoos a baby?) He left her with a peasant family and moved on. Now, in the present, he returns to the same area (accompanied by his girlfriend, who was out of focus for the previous two books). Curious as to what happened to the child, he goes looking for her — and finds that she is somehow tangled up in all manner of local intrigue, what with feuding (and mentally unstable) monarchs, an incognito prince, sorcery, and the like. Despite originally having been quite keen to ditch the girl and leave, he now finds himself feeling obliged to help her out.

  • Distinguishing Mark: The baby girl Eddie saved had a tattoo, which naturally serves as a pointer to her background. The question of what kind of person would inflict a tattoo on a baby is not ignored.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: granted, good people still die and go through emotional wringer along the way, but pretty much everyone who surives is in a better place by the end than they were at the start.
  • Parental Substitute: After finding and saving a baby girl in the forest, Eddie wants to find a family to look after her, but is pretty determined that it not be him, since he has mercenary work to think of. He is therefore quite keen to off-load the child.
    Eddie: Well, she’s a local girl now. See ya. [starts for door]
    Audrey: You just wait right there, young man. This child may not have sprung from your loins, but that doesn’t mean she’s not your responsibility.
    Eddie: [insisting] Yes, it does.
    Audrey: Look at her. You want her to go back to the people who used her like a sheet of vellum? Who the hell’s going to take care of her if you don’t?
    Eddie: You?
Fortunately for everyone involved, a proper adoptive family is indeed found, and Isidore grows up Happily Adopted.

Alternative Title(s): The Sword Edged Blonde