John Justin Mallory is the prototypical private investigator. He’s got no money, no prospects, and no joy in his work. His ex-partner has left their failing business with a mob-oriented mess in Mallory’s lap…plus, he took Mallory’s wife with him. It’s New Year’s Eve and Mallory is spending it drinking in his office. Enter Mürgenstürm…a little green elf with a big problem. He’s got until dawn to find a unicorn called Larkspur that was left in his care and is now missing. If he doesn’t find it the elf’s guild will terminate his membership…permanently. Mürgenstürm offers the job to Mallory and introduces the hard-boiled PI to the world of the “other” Manhattan. This Manhattan is populated with leprechauns, cat-girls, wizards, chess-playing cops and criminals, and the Grundy…its demonic de facto ruler. Mallory figures it’s his chance to get away from the mob toughs that have been watching him (thanks to his ex-partner) and besides…this is probably a drunken delusion anyway. The hunt for the missing unicorn reveals a far more insidious plot (doesn’t it always…) in which Mallory is pitted against the Grundy with nothing less than his own world on the line.
Stalking the Unicorn (by Mike Resnick) was originally released in the late 1980s and was one of the first “urban fantasy” novels. It’s a far cry from the action-packed Dresden Files or the erotic adventures of Anita Blake, but it never intended to be anything but well-crafted whimsy. Unicorn is a fluffy bit of fun that really is a joy to read. It’s a cartoon…but a good one. The dialog is crisp and snappy and the plot is much more interesting than it has a right to be. If you like your fantasy dark, brooding, and apocalyptic, this will not be the book for you. But if you were willing to play along with Robert Asprin’s Myth series or the early Xanth novels, this might be just the change of pace from the heavier urban fantasy of today.