Saint City Sinners is proof that some series cannot be entered into without first reading what has gone before. The well established tradition in most multiple book series is to offer a brief synopsis of the back story in the form of a narrative discussion between characters (a police captain and the detectives in police procedurals for example) or an actual synopsis as Stephen R. Donaldson did in his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever. Lilith Saintcrow eschews this tradition to plunge headlong into a story which is alternately interesting and frustrating.
Being confused with the nature of the world in which Valentine, a psion bounty hunter, inhabits is our world but one in which the religious mythologies of old have come to life as realities. Valentine works with Japhrimel the son of Satan and the book opens with a battle between son and father over the life of Valentine. Why this battle is taking place is beyond us and not explained to us either. Valentine has been made part demon and is permanently attached to Japhrimel she refers to him as “my fallen”.
None of this explains how this world came to be nor how such a whiny, obtuse woman with a predisposition for self destructive behaviour has managed to survive what is plainly an extremely dangerous profession. We are told at the start of the novel that female psions are much better at this job than male psions which can only lead one to believe that male psions drop dead before they even get out of puberty. Try as valiantly as a reader might to get into this story the byzantine mechaniations of demons, gods and trying to understand the Hegemony to begin with get in the way of what is some pretty decent writing and sound dialogue.
That Saintcrow can write is not in question. That we will be interested in what she writes without knowing the back story is most definitely in question. For my own part I am interested enough that the earlier novels will make it onto my desk before long and I will give her another chance. Until then Saint City Sinners will stay on my “maybe keep” shelf. My advice if you chance upon this book is give it a pass until you have read the other three first it might help you enjoy this one.