Table of Contents
“If you like urban fantasy, this one is a cut above the rest.”
“A suspenseful tale that’s supported by strong characters and a delightful infusion of magic and mystery.”
“The supernatural lives, breathes, and slithers in a San Francisco where the dog days don’t just get you down; they eat you alive.”—Rob Thurman, national bestselling author of
Trick of the Light
“A compelling magical mystery, filled with twists and some uncomfortable turns as it follows a likable new character through a mostly familiar San Francisco . . . I thoroughly enjoyed
. It’s proof that there’s still a heck of a lot of potential for variation in the urban fantasy genre, and it’s a highly satisfying read . . . an excellent start to a promising new series.”—
The Green Man Review
“Appealing, fully founded characters . . . Levitt promises to be a novelist worth watching . . . Readers will enjoy the roller-coaster ride through dangers both magical and mundane. Anyone who likes solid storytelling will enjoy
. Here’s looking forward to the next adventure.”
“Levitt has envisioned a lively world . . . [a] delightful take on good versus evil. Mason’s character, with his self-deprecating humor, beat-up van, and list of odd associates, is entertaining and engaging, and will certainly leave readers looking for more from this unlikely hero and his dog.”
Monsters and Critics
“Dog lovers don’t get many fantasy books geared to them, so finding one is a pleasure . . . Fans of Harry Dresden will enjoy the tone this story sets.”—
Huntress Book Reviews
“A great little cross-genre read; I highly enjoyed this . . . I highly recommend this book to anyone that likes urban fantasy . . . [It] came together exceptionally well and had more than enough surprises to keep it interesting.”
Ace Books by John Levitt
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author
Ace mass-market edition / December 2009
Copyright © 2009 by John Levitt.
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eISBN : 978-1-101-15153-2
Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
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ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
I’d like to thank Don Sipley for all the wonderful covers he’s done for the Dog Days series.
Also, thanks to my copy editor, Emma Stockton, and all the people at Ace Books—art department, production, promotion—everyone there who works so hard to make the books as good as they can be.
A FRESH BREEZE, CARRYING A SALTWATER TANG, pushed inland from across the ocean. The sky had just turned that purplish hue of dusk, and the top of the Golden Gate Bridge was just visible over the tops of the trees. A fine San Francisco evening, perfect for sightseers, dog walkers, and lovers. And hunters.
Somewhere in the undergrowth and tangled brush, the creature waited for us. Victor was over to my left, carrying the sawed-off shotgun. Not much of a weapon if you need to aim, but for close-up work it’s unbeatable. Lou ranged ahead, light on his paws, using only his dog senses for once. His magical talents were useless in tracking this thing, but he still had those sharp ears and an even sharper sense of smell.
He moved his head from side to side, nose twitching, constantly testing the air. Victor watched intently, and when Lou finally stopped and focused on a particular patch of thick brush, he moved up behind him. He motioned for me to hang back—the last thing he wanted was for me to be anywhere near the line of fire. A sawed-off shotgun sprays pellets like a garden hose, and even if you’re not directly in the line of fire, you can be struck anyway. And since each double-ought pellet is roughly the size of a .32 bullet, even one of them can kill you.
I didn’t have a gun. My job was to take care of the magical side of things. The creature wasn’t much affected by any use of magical talent, but situations can still arise where a clever spell might come in handy.
The patch of brush was edged by tall, leafy trees, a pocket of wildness on the edge of the urban landscape. Lou edged closer, but he looked puzzled, as if he’d picked up the scent, then lost it. Maybe the thing had slipped away once again. We’d been hunting it for months, off and on, without success. It was as smart as it was vicious.
Victor moved toward the underbrush, shotgun held easily at hip level, ready to swivel in any direction. He stopped well before he reached the tangle of bushes; shotgun or no, he wasn’t pushing his way into an overgrown space where anything lying in wait would have every advantage.
I don’t know if Victor heard something or if a sixth sense kicked in, but he suddenly glanced up and then dove sideways just as the thing dropped down from an overhead tree branch. It aimed for his shoulders, hoping to get its muzzle close to his throat. That would have been the end of that story. It missed, but even so it raked his arms on the way past and knocked the shotgun flying. It was up and at him again in an instant, a blur of claws and teeth and snarls.
Lou charged forward and tried for a back leg, but Victor and the creature were rolling on the ground, momentarily inseparable. I ran toward the shotgun and scooped it up. The shot pattern wouldn’t spread if I could press the muzzle right into the creature. All I’d need was a moment’s separation between the two.
It saw me coming with the shotgun and broke off the attack, darting into the cover of the bushes. Victor hauled himself up into a sitting position and gasped something I couldn’t catch. He shook his head as I approached him, and reached out his hand.
“Mason. Give me the gun,” he finally got out. “It may come back.”
Clearly he thought he was better able to handle the threat, torn up as he was, than a healthy Mason would be. He might have been right.
“How bad is it?” I asked, squatting down and handing over the shotgun, wincing as I watched blood dripping onto the ground beside him.
“I’ve been better.” He’d managed to protect his vital parts, but his right leg was a mess of blood and torn tissue. The fabric of his black jeans hung in shredded strips. “Hiding in the tree,” he muttered, talking half to me, half to himself. “How could I have been so dumb? Rookie mistake. Look up; always look up.”
It took him ten minutes to be convinced the creature wasn’t returning. Lou sat next to him, keeping guard as well. Victor kept hold of the shotgun the whole time, but he was beginning to have trouble holding it. Blood loss was rapidly weakening him. Finally, he reluctantly handed it to me and tried to climb to his feet. His leg, not surprisingly, gave way and I had to catch him to keep him from falling over.