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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

New Amsterdam - Elizabeth Bear Rating: 4.25* of fiveThis delicious book is one helluva good read, and quite entertainingly thought-provoking as well.The title city, New Amsterdam, is the former Dutch colony on Manhattan Island, only captured by the British in the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century. Now THERE's an alternate history that's fun to imagine! Bear doesn't imagine it, though, which I consider to be a flaw; but I forgive her because Abigail Irene the forensic sorceress is such a delight as a character! She is an aging beauty, a madcap heiress in her day, and now that middle years impinge upon her beauty, a lot more of a woman than most men can handle. Her liaison with her boss is very well portrayed as the comfort-and-convenience of middle-aged lovers, not some fun but ephemeral passion of earlier life. This alone makes the book worth reading.The crimes Abby Irene is called upon to solve are of more mysterious origins than mere "bang-you're-dead" murders that our blah little world provides. She has to wonder if her murderers are inadequately controlled demons summoned from Hell by fools in over their heads. She is ably, if unwelcomely, assisted by the oldest creature she's ever met: Don Sebastien, the Spanish wampyr, whose reputation in Europe was that of the Great Detective. After he saves Abby Irene's life, she grudgingly accepts that he's got the chops to help her in her vitrtually single-handed attempts to control the supernatural crimes that New Amsterdam presents in abundance.Don Sebastien is over a thousand years old. He's long since forgotten the name of the village in Christian Spain where he was born before the turn of the millennium (the FIRST one, that is); he's been undead so long that he's emptied the last reservoirs of companionship, camaraderie, and seeks true death at last.His teenaged ward, Jack, has no truck with this. He is in love with Sebastien, and will not give up his connection to this marvelous, fascinating, and quite lively corpse. Jack was a child in a club for visiting wampyrs to feed on locals when Sebastien found him; he was purchased from his parentally made indenture to the vampire version of an IHOP and subsequently freed by Sebastien. Their relationship since then has been more equal than either really knows, and each is very much lovingly dependent on the other.Bear makes *no* point of their respective genders. Their love is presented as fully as can be; they are persecuted because of prejudice against wampyr-human relationships.Handy dodge, eh?Well, this is a collection of stories that tells good mysteries solved by very richly drawn characters in an alternate version of Earth that I would like to visit if I could figure out a place to apply for a visa. Recommended for anyone who isn't completely dead inside.