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Literature / Esther Diamond

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The Esther Diamond books are a comedic Urban Fantasy series written by Laura Resnick. Esther Diamond, an actress in New York, was performing as chorus girl in a struggling off-Broadway show when the musicals leading lady vanishes in a magic act. The incident introduced her to Dr. Maximilian Zadok, a 350 year old mage and New York's representative of the Magnum Collegium, an Ancient Conspiracy dedicated to fighting Evil and upholding The Masquerade.

Since then, Esther's jobs (acting or otherwise) invariably bring her, Max and her sometimes boyfriend, Detective Lopez, involved in supernatural mystical forces.

The series includes 7 books so far, with 3 more announced:

  • Disappearing Nightly (2005)
  • Dopplegangster (2010)
  • Unsympathetic Magic (2010)
  • Vamparazzi (2011)
  • Polterheist (2012)
  • The Misfortune Cookie (2013)
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  • Abracadaver (2014)
  • Goldzilla (TBA)
  • Esther Diamond #9 (TBA)
  • Esther Diamond #10 (TBA)

Tropes appearing in the Esther Diamond series:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Sleazy, middle-aged reporter Al Tarr constantly hits on Esther in Vamparazzi. Her interest in him is somewhere around nil.
  • Agent Scully: Detective Lopez always misses the mystical parts of the case and therefore believes the Max is crazy and drugging Esther.
  • All Myths Are True: So far, Esther's encountered dopplegangers, vampires and zombies, among others.
  • Alternate History: Lithuania faced a vampire epidemic.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Part of the Magnum Collegium's role is to prevent "mundanes" from discovering magic.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In Dopplegangster, Esther screams at the Big Bad for his various horrible deeds while hitting him, ending with the fact he nearly ruined her audition. To be fair, she's an actress and that was pretty important for her.
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  • Badass Boast: In the first book the villain boasts of becoming more powerful than Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg (although granted this was written before the two went into politics).
  • The Beast Master: Zigzagged, when Sarah, one of the kidnapped assistants from Disappearing Nightly is familiar enough with Alice, the tiger who was kidnapped with her and hasn't been fed in a while, to keep her calm and give a few basic commands, but she isn’t Alice's trainer and has little overall control of her.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Max was the inspiration for Van Helsing.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Daemon Ravel's PA Victor is pretty high-strung, although its unclear if his natural personality, or how high-maintenance Daemon is plays a bigger role in this.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The five Fensters seen in Poltergeist hate each other.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Big Bad's Father Gabriel and Rick both seem charming, and trustworthy for most of their respective books.
  • Black Comedy Rape: the misogynistic Big Bad of Disappearing Nightly summons a demon which needs to rape a virgin on arrival, only to be thrown to that demon himself when it arrives. From the next room, Esther and the others hear him screaming, then the demon comes in, looking flushed and satisfied, while the Big Bad follows, hunched over and looking furious.
  • Bland-Name Product: Esther occasionally guest stars on Crime and Punishment.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: Evil.
  • Christmas Episode: Polterheist is set in a department store, where Esther is picking up work as a (Jewish) elf.
  • Condescending Compassion: When one of the drag queens from the first book finds out that Max and Lysander have been voluntarily celibate for decades in Max's case and his whole life in Lysander's, his reaction os one of horrified shock. When told to be more tolerant, he replies:
    Whoopsy Daisy: I'm not intolerant. I'm flooded with pity.
  • Confessional: It's speculated Father Gabriel in Doppelgänger became a priest hoping to hear more about how his mobster father died via confessions.
  • The Corruptor: Max, Lucky and Esther speculate that Rick was this too Elpseth Fenster.
  • Detective Mole: Combined with Living with the Villain: in Disappearing Nightly, with said Mole even taking the leftovers from the meals that Max, Esther the rest of the Amateur detectives had while investigating his crimes and used them to feed his prisoners!
  • Dirty Old Man: Martin Livingston, a Posthumous Character in Unsympathetic Magic, while respected for being a Wealthy Philanthropist, was also a philanderer who made a rather forceful pass on at least one woman who was forty years younger than him. Many of the mobster patrons at the restaurant Esther waitresses at in Doppelgänger and The Misfortune Cookie also apply.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything??: Camp Gay, Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Esther's agent Thack saying he doesn’t practice blood-drinking and thinks of it as moving past the tradition-oriented and restrictive past of vampire society. This feels a bit like a statement about his sexuality, ironically the opposite of the main themes of 'True Blood'' with actual vampirism being an analog for homosexuality. Given the books release date, this could have even been an intentional Take That!.
  • The Don: The Shy Don, leader of the Gambinos.
  • Emergency Transformation: How Leischneudel became a vampire, having gotten drunk with another vampire, and talking about his health problems (not lethal, but chronic), which caused the equally drunk vampire to turn him out of pity.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: During his stint as a vampire hunter, Max worked with a Serbian villager who'd manage to kill an undead vampire, and turned out to have drank blood from its corpse in order to gain superhuman strength to protect the village form the rest of the vampires. unfortunately, he has to be killed due to having trouble controlling his new thirst for blood.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Played for laughs. Lucky, a mafia hitman, won't let anyone mess with Santa.
  • Everybody Lives: Even the villains survive to be arrested in Polterheist.
  • Everyone Can See It: Played with. It's obvious to everyone that Esther and Jeff used to date.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: in The Misfortune Cookie, Lopez starts to protest that it hasn't been a week since he called Esther, only to do the math in his head and find out that it has been (which gets him a lot of ribbing and/or stern looks from both his colleagues and the mobsters they're arresting).
  • Exposition of Immortality: Max occasionally names drops famous figures from history or references past adventures from centuries passed. In Vamparazzi, in lieu of direct involvement in the case, we see flashbacks of Max's last encounter with vampires and the reason he avoids Lithuanians.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: We never actually meet Barclay Preston-Cole III's father, but it sounds as if he feels this way towards his sons stage magician aspirations.
  • First-Person Smartass: Esther has her moments.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Thackery and Leischneudel.
  • Hate at First Sight: played for laughs, off-screen when Clarisse was summoned by the villains spell and fell face first into a pile of vomit Glory Gee had made when she threw up after her own arrival. Clarisse still seems a bit sore about it (with Glory’s personality probably not helping).
  • Hellbent For Leather: Clarisse Staunton's performing outfit for her and Barclay's act.
  • Hidden Depths: Clarisse is a bit of an Upper-Class Twit, but is prepared to fight back against the demon with just a candlestick, takes care of a wounded Dolly, and seems to have been just as passionate about her and Barclay's act as he was.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Averted and discussed. The Voudoun in Unsympathetic Magic is rich and varied.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: The Fensters, even the nicer ones, are considered this in comparison to their recently-deceased matriarch. It’s even briefly speculated the phenomena terrorizing the store is her wrathful ghost, whose feeling this trope from beyond the grave.
  • Insistent Terminology: Don't call what Max does and deals with "supernatural" unless you're ready for a lecture.
    • Likewise, don't call Nellie, Max's canine familiar, a "dog".
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Both Barclay Preston-Cole and Garry Goudini in Disappearing Nightly drink alcohol as they recount how their respective assistants disappeared during their acts.
  • Insufferable Genius: Catherine Livingston and Lysander Singh are very brainy and very arrogant.
  • I Want Grandkids: Lopez's mom annoys her sons by wanting them to marry and reproduce.
  • I Want My Mommy!: Esther's Womanchild co-star Rachel does this a lot in Vamparazzi, both for serious threats and minor irritations.
  • Jerkass: Quite a few (including more than one Big Bad).
    • In Disappearing Nightly Max's assistant Hieronymous is pretty standoffish towards Esther.
    • Several of the mobsters in Doppelganger display the expected social graces for their profession, although most are more slimy that rude.
    • Vamparazzi gives us two of Esther's co-stars; Daemon Ravel a Narcissist, and Dirty Coward who displays a keen Lack of Empathy and enjoys kinky sex with his groupies a bit too much, and Mad Rachel a self-absorbed and shrill prima donna, as well as Abhorrent Admirer Paparazzi Al Tarr, who gleefully writes lies and half truths accusing a man he knows to be innocent of murder and practically incites a lynch mob in the process.
    • Polterheist features Preston Fenster, a profit-obsessed, Christmas hating, politically incorrect Mean Boss and his daughter Elpseth, a snarky Loony Fan Goth who's obsessed with death and fairly rude to Esther for not living up to the image Elpseth had formed of her from her performance in Daemon's play.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Occasionally. One good example is Garry Goudini from the first book. He's kind of an Entitled Bastard, whose dialogue often screams It's All About Me. While everyone else is concerned about their missing assistants he largely just focuses on Alice the tiger due to her importance in his act and can barely bother to remember his human assistant Sarah. However he provides many useful and key insights to the investigation in just the couple chapters, praises Max's bookstore to be a relaxing atmosphere, and comforts a hysterical Delilah even after the Unsettling Gender Reveal.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: The villain in book 3 initially isn't that likable but gradually shows some helpfulness and humor before being revealed as a cruel murderer.
  • Jewish Mother: Esther mom is always nagging her to find a nice man and pick more respectable roles.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Frequently. The villain of the first book (not to mention said villain's fate) is mentioned in nearly all of the sequels. Abracadaver is also an Immediate Sequel to The Misfortune Cookie and not only reveals who the previous book's killer was, but has Max and Esther explain said killer's motives and methods in copious details for some of the other people involved in the case who hadn't been present during their "Eureka!" Moment.
  • Latin Lover: Detective Lopez, half-Puerto Rican, is very attractive and Esther's love interest.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Lopez doesn't know that he has light/fire powers.
  • Lovely Assistant: The first book's mystery is how six magicians' assistants disappear from vanishing cabinets for real. Four of the six are glamorous young women who are assisting struggling magicians (or in one case, an actor playing a magician) who take their work seriously. One is an older woman who vanishes from a party her boyfriend is hosting and providing the entertainment for. The sixth is a man who performs in a drag show wearing nothing but a thong.
  • The Mafia: Featured prominently in Dopplegangster.
  • Magical Society: The Magnum Collegium is a group of mages who study magic and fight Evil.
  • Man of Kryptonite: Al Tar, the big bad of Vamparazzi is a vampire and can only be killed by decapitation and fire. Too bad he's caught by Detective Lopez.
  • Meet the In-Laws: In Polterheist, Esther, and the audience, finally meets Lopez's parents. It...doesn't go well.
  • Mistaken for Gay: In Unsympathetic Magic, Biko says that due to his mannerisms and interests (poetry readings, wine tasting, keeping hand sanitizer, speech choices and the way he dressed) he'd always assumed that Darius Phelps was gay (and it's implied Jeff thought so to) until he walked in on him having sex with Catherine Livingston one night. In fact, Darius was gay, and was being mind-controlled into having sex with her.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: In Unsympathetic Magic, Esther get mistaken for a street walker, due to her costume and and her frantic attempts to call for help.
  • Mistaken for Racist: At one point in Disappearing Nightly Hieronymous tells Esther that it's possible that "your people" were behind the disappearance. She takes that remark as anti-Semitic and stats to get defensive before he clarifies that he meant non-magical people.
  • Muggle Best Friend: Esther, who has no powers, to Max.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The antagonists of Polterheist both have somewhat mild versions of this, one realizing that his partner intends to take things a lot further than they'd talked about by actually summoning a dangerous spirit, and the other upon actually seeing the creature they're summoning in the flesh.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Catherine Livingston angrily says this, when Esther greets her by saying, "Dr. Livingston I presume?"
  • The Obi-Wannabe: Max wonders if he might have been this to Hieronymus, due to how little they communicate and feeling neither particularly outraged, saddened or betrayed after discovering Hieronymus was Evil All Along.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Lysander has some of this although unlike many examples he actually goes into the field and tries to help solve the issue. He does provide some genuine assistance but is a bit of an Insufferable Genius and Commander Contrarian.
  • Occult Detective: Max is an older, more research-oriented version of this, investigating the paranormal.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vamparazzi shows us what amount to three different varieties, all rooted in an Alternate History of Lithuania.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The zombies in ''Unsympathetic Magic" more closely resemble Voodoo Zombies, rather than Hoolywood zombies.
  • Paparazzi: Al Tarr in Vamparazzi is a profile writer, but the direction his profiles actually take, and his excited interest in reporting the recent murders, cement him as this.
  • Pet the Dog: Literally, Rachel from Vamparazzi is a dog person, and spends a lot of time gushing over Nelli.
  • Poor Communication Kills: A somewhat humorous example occurs in Vamparazzi. There's an ugly mob of Loony Fans and people who think Daemon Ravel is a vampire and/or murderer outside the theater. Daemon's assistant Victor texts him to come in through the fire door. An exhausted Daemon had turned off his phone and not checked his texts though, and his coming in through the front door earns him a lot of abuse for the mob, while stirring them up more. And because Victor thought that Daemon was still going to come in through the fire door as soon as he heard someone outside, he opened it, accidentally letting the mob in to storm the theater for the climax.
  • The Prima Donna: Glory Gee in Disappearing Nightly, and Rachel in Vamparazzi. Glory is also a Dirty Coward, being the only hostage not to try and fight back against the Big Bad.
  • Pun-Based Title: All of them.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Disappearing Nightly has an odd, gradually growing group of heroes who investigate the kidnappings. There's a Weirdness Magnet actress, three mages from The Order (a kindly man who's Really 700 Years Old, a rude and lisping apprentice, and a stuffy bureaucrat), four performers from a Drag Queen show, a Cowboy condom magnate and his drama student daughter, a youthful stockbroker and amateur magician, and a flamboyant Las Vegas showman. The kidnapped Lovely Assistants also briefly form this dynamic once they show up in person. There's a self-centered B-List pop star, two socialites, a male stripper, an elegantly dressed woman (who is kidnapped along with a tiger), and two of the characters who start out investigating the disappearances.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Max is around 350 years old, but looks around 70. When he was young, his alchemy master gave him a potion to slow his aging without Max knowing.
  • Romantic False Lead: Esther gets a job playing one of these in a small independent film in The Misfortune Cookie.
  • Running Gag:
    • Max asking people if they're Lithuanian.
    • Everybody reads the tabloids.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Played for Laughs and done in a heroic, last resort fashion when, in the first book, Max and Barclays ages arrested for questioning by the police and Barclay gets them released by invoking the names of his lawyers and his cousin the congressman.
  • Sensory Overload: Hereditary vampire Thackery lists this as one of the reasons he doesn’t drink blood (along with not actually needing to). Yes, it would give him a big sensory boost, but considering that he lives in the noisy and somewhat smelly Manhattan, the idea of this makes him shudder.
  • Sequel Hook: Every book sets up the setting of the next book, usually in Esther next part or job.
  • Skeptic No Longer: Fairly often with supporting characters. Jeff in Unsympathetic Magic, and the third victim in Doppelganger are good examples of people who view Max as crazy but then realize he isn't.
  • Sorry, I'm Gay: Lopez's oldest brother claims this to combat their mother's I Want Grandkids. Their other brother says he's becoming a priest.
  • Stereotype Reaction Gag: All real vampires hate goths and vampire wannabes in Vamparazzi.
  • Stripperiffic: Being an actress, Esther often finds herself still in skimpy costumes when facing Evil.
  • Stupid Evil: Buonrati in Doppelgänger certainly qualifies (something that is heavily lampshaded In-Universe) for bragging about murdering prominent members of multiple rival crime families over the phone (as well as boasting of Godlike powers born from dark magic and his confidence that he would never be caught). Given the heavy police surveillance, he should have guessed that phone was bugged (and sure enough, it was). Not only does that give the police the evidence to arrest the guy, but it also lets the other mobsters know that he's the killer and that he bragged about his kills (something which is almost as big of a taboo for them as the actual killing) over a phone which he had to have at least known might be tapped. The fact that the mob is planning to have the guy murdered in jail when he's last mentioned is no big surprise.
  • Sugary Malice: In Disappearing Nightly Barclay mentions that one reason he's sure that Clarisse really did disappear and isn't just playing a joke or something is because her worst enemy had a bridal shower and she wouldn't have missed it.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: Subverted, Sarah tries to sicc Alice the tiger on the demon at the climax of Disappearing Nightly but although it’s a game effort 1) Alice isn’t actually the bigger fish in this scenario and 2) Alice seems to realize this and refuses to attack.
  • The Tease: Naughty and Nice, to elves in Polterheist.
  • That Man Is Dead: Played for Laughs with vampire actor and self-proclaimed actual vampire Daemon Ravel's efforts to distance himself from his birth identity.
  • Title Drop: Dopplegangster and Vamparazzi.
    • If the exact title doesn't get dropped, it will come close, as in Unsympathetic Magic.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: Lampshaded in the first book, although it is an alias and the villains real name is more distinctive and intimidating.
    Whoopsy Daisy: We're calling the villain Phil?
    Esther: Yes.
    Whoopsy Daisy: Phil?
    Esther: I'm afraid so.
    Whoopsy Daisy: It seems somehow anticlimactic.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Lopez's boss Detective Napoli is a harsh example of Inspector Javert during Doppelgänger (although it's undermined by his only appearing in two scenes in the first third of the novel) but when he finally reappears in The Misfortune Cookie, he's more relaxed and sympathetic (although the fact that his division just made a major bust probably helps) and is willing to give Esther some leeway and sympathy when she blows up at Lopez for not calling her after the first time they had sex, which happened because he was preoccupied unsuccessfully trying to find a way to delay shutting down the money-laundering restaurant she was working at until a time Esther wasn't on duty.
  • Trenchcoat Brigade: Max wears a duster bequeathed to him by a gunslinger.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal:Esther’s worried this will be Max’s reaction to finding out Delilah is a drag queen in the first book after having seemed a bit taken with her, but he takes it fairly well. The Great Goudini plays this a bit straighter when he finds out after hitting on her.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: In Disappearing Nightly, the main characters at some point suspect that the Big Bad is after virgins. Turns out this is true, he needs a virgin to summon a demon, and he has been keeping all the vanished girls and women prisoners, trying to finally get one who is actually a virgin. Not even the tiger he accidentally kidnapped is a virgin. He himself, on the other hand, is.
  • Voodoo Doll: They appear, called by their proper name poppet, in Unsympathetic Magic. Puma sells them to tourists. Zigzagged Trope: They are incorporated into the big bad's plan.
  • Voodoo Zombie: Resnick showed her work in her research for Unsympathetic Magic.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: Various times, but most memorably in Vamparazzi, where Esther's Gorgeous Period Dress gets torn, leaving her topless.
  • Webcomic Time: In the the 12 years the books have been published, less than a year has passed in-story.
  • Weirdness Magnet: The series never even attempts to explain why Esther keeps running into monsters.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The bad guy of Doppelgänger who wants to wipe out three mob families although his lack of concern for innocent casualties keeps him from being an Anti-Villain.
  • Wham Line:
    • "Does it mean anything to you, Dr. Zadok, when I tell you that I’m...Lithuanian?"
    • The line that reveals the identity of the first book's Big Bad to both Max and Esther, and the readers;
    Delilah: He had just about the most pronounced speech impediment I've ever heard.
    • In Doppelgänger, right after Max, Esther and Lucky have been meeting with Johnny Be Good Gambello, a witness to another mobster doppelgänger appearing, Esther gets a call from Lopez, who says he'll have to miss their date due to his job.
    Lopez: Johnny Be Good Gambello was just found dead.
    Esther: What?
    Lopez: Yeah, they just fished him out of the east river The initial estimate is that he’s been dead for twenty-four hours.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Subverted. when looking for motives for the disappearances in the first book, Esther wonders if Dixie resented her father’s assistant Dolly for being his mistress, but the two got along great and seem to have as strong of a bond as an actual mother and daughter when we see them together.
  • Wretched Hive Of Scum And Villainy:
    • Altuna, Pennsylvania.
    • Played for laughs when the big bad of Disappearing Nightly expresses this feeling about New York, due to his inability to find a Virgin Sacrifice.
  • You Have Out Lived Your Usefulness: The Dragon suffers from this in Unsympathetic Magic, and almost in Doppelgänger, only surviving by luck.