Title: Infected: Throwaways
Series: Mean Streets: Book Two
Author: Andrea Speed
Publisher: DSP Publications
Length: 280 Pages
Category: Mystery/Suspense, Urban Fantasy
At a Glance: Once again, Andrea Speed shows off her skill at writing some great action scenes and pulling readers along on a suspenseful ride.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Former prostitute and street kid turned private detective Holden Krause is asked to look into the murder of Burn, a black-market dealer, who turns up dead near the infamous homeless encampment known as the Jungle. It’s a place Holden is familiar with—and his memories of it aren’t entirely bad. The settlement has been taken over by sinister people but Holden isn’t afraid to take them on. A big part of his PI gig is cover for his more dangerous vigilante crusade: exacting justice for the people the system ignores, the throwaways—people just like the ones living in the Jungle.
It’s getting harder and harder for Holden’s partner, Chai Nayar, to look the other way while Holden searches out retribution beyond the confines of the law. When one of their associates is shot and Holden realizes—far too late—that he’s in over his head with this case, Chai is left to pick up the pieces and hopefully save their lives. He resorts to the only solution he can find and calls Roan, who is more lethal than ever. Will it be their saving grace, or a fatal mistake?
Review: Who’s my favorite badass vigilante? Holden Krause. Who’s back and badassier than ever? Holden friggin’ Krause, that’s who. Andrea Speed rocked my world with this book; now let me tell you why.
I’ve always called Holden disaffected, and he still is, of course, but the thing about him is that, although he doesn’t often (ever?) come right out and say it, he cares a little bit. He probably cares more than he wants to about certain things, especially Roan, but the thing he cares about without question is meting out justice on behalf of those the system discounts as immaterial and therefore unworthy of aid or protection or compassion—the homeless, the poor, the mentally ill, the throwaway humans who are most in need of help but are least likely to get it from a society rooted in hypocrisy and greed and ‘what have you done for me lately?’. Yes, there are some politicized opinions coming from Holden in Infected: Throwaways about systemic injustice, exactly as one would expect from a man who has never held most humans or the law or the people in power in the highest regard, anyway; nor holds his tongue when there’s a statement to make. It’s our current socio-political dung heap, in fact, that gives Holden so much ammunition to draw from, and he fires at will, which works so well within this story’s setting and his overall representation, and I loved it.
Another of the things that worked so, so, so well for me in Throwaways is Chai, whom I adore immensely. Chai was introduced in book one of this spinoff series, and what a painful introduction it was. He’s still working through some of the issues that had brought him to the edge of the abyss, but showing up on Holden’s doorstep when he did was a turning point rather than a dead end for Chai, thank goodness. Still unsure of his place as Holden’s investigative partner, Chai is acclimatizing to the idea that his best friend—a former street kid and prostitute—is now a PI and wants Chai—a former street kid and cam boy and prostitute—to be the brains of his operation. And, as if that weren’t enough, he’s grappling with the realization that Holden is also a vigilante—Allegedly. Probably.—who doesn’t hesitate to kill if he feels it’s justified. Justified in Holden’s mind, at least. I love this paradox and the moral conflict it causes. Holden is a man who kills bad people for good reasons, but he’s still taking the law and their fates into his own hands. It’s rather a Dexter-ish conundrum: if you’re killing bad people who do bad things, to rid the world of their badness, is it really, truly bad? And it’s this that makes Holden such a great antihero to root for. He is rage and he is vengeance for those who can’t defend themselves.
One of the things that I feel corrected its course in this installment of the Mean Streets spinoff is the narrative. Giving Chai a voice in this novel is inspired, and as a person of color, he also has some of his own statements to make. I said this in my review of book one, and it’s still true: being in Holden’s head for the entirety of a novel would be tough, if not impossible. His head is a dark and dangerous place to be, and not only that but there are lots of things in there that he wouldn’t want us to see. I didn’t feel we’d yet found that support voice in book one for the occasional buffer we readers need from Fox and his antipathy and targeted misanthropy. Chai is the perfect choice to take on the mantle of point of view character. He’s smart, sweet, conflicted, relatable, sympathetic and completely deserving of the happiness he may be on course to find with a certain someone I believe will be perfect for him, given his discomfort with his affliction. I’m excited to see where this goes in future novels.
For anyone familiar with the Infected -verse, you know Roan McKichan left a huge hole in Seattle when he departed with his husband, Dylan, to a quiet corner of Canada, a peaceful spot where Roan will live his last days as the virus that makes him as much lion as man (maybe even more lion than man at this point) slowly kills him. It hasn’t taken him yet, though, in spite of another scare, and he’s back and as amazing as ever in Throwaways. If there’s ever been a fictional character I can honestly say I love, a character I’ve grieved with and for, it’s Roan. At one time the streets of Seattle were his jungle, and he was, once and truly, their king. His love for his first husband, Paris, is only paralleled by the love he now shares with Dylan. His, and our, grief for Paris’s loss is a deep and lasting one. Roan draws people to him like gravity holds planets in orbit around the sun, and he inspires the sort of love and loyalty that comes from a magnetism that is all Roan. Speed has established canon in this -verse, and I don’t want her to break it if it means pulling a god-in-the-machine miracle, but the thought of Roan not being around anymore is positively gut-wrenching. I hope we get to see him more as this iteration of the Infected -verse continues.
Of course, an Infected book wouldn’t be an Infected book without my two favorite hockey boys, Scott and Grey, and while they don’t get to play sidekick here as they have in the past, I will never, ever not love seeing them pop up in a story. Grey has a pretty big moment at the end of this installment, one I hope is serving to pave the way for Scott to maybe have his own big moment, and if he and Holden can find their way back to each other on a steadier basis, that’d be just fine by me. I think we might be seeing some hints of things in Holden we’ve never seen before—like maybe he wouldn’t hate being with Scott? Which I’m all for, 100%.
In case it isn’t obvious, after that lengthy character lovefest, there is an actual storyline for the characters to do things in too, just the sort of mystery that Holden is made for. When a murder investigation near a homeless encampment—called the Jungle, which is an awful yet synchronous perfection—turns dangerous for Holden and Chai, exposing corruption and brutality, Andrea Speed shows off her skill at writing some great action scenes and pulling readers along on a suspenseful ride. This is one of the things I’ve always loved about this series, apart from Roan and Holden and company—the mystery/suspense that’s integral to it. And, while the urban fantasy elements have been tamed a bit in Mean Streets, they’re still hinted at enough for readers to get that this isn’t the Seattle we know.
The Infected books, both Roan’s series and now Holden’s, are ones I never hesitate to recommend when someone’s looking for some great urban fantasy. Speed’s sense of humor and her pop culture references add yet another layer to her characterizations and world building, which I’ve appreciated all along, and the offbeat charm of her characters add to it to offset the gritty underbelly of murder and mystery the series is known for, and, in the case of this book, the ugly social and political truths suffered by the least of these in our society who are supposed to be the object of our aid and compassion.
You can buy Infected: Throwaways here: