Review: Midnight Taxi Tango by Daniel José Older

midnight taxi tango

I was rewarded in securing Midnight Taxi Tango so soon after finishing Half-Resurrection Blues. The second book in the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series is a significant step up in terms of characters and plotting. In addition to Carlos Delacruz’ POV, readers have the pleasure of reading the POVs of not one, but two female characters, whose sheer wonderfulness and badassery rendered Carlos the least interesting of the three POVs. (Sorry Carlos.)

Warning: this review will be going into spoilers for the ending of Half-Resurrection Blues.

Midnight Taxi Tango takes place several months after the ending of Half-Resurrection Blues, after Sasha left Carlos, pregnant with his child and (understandably) upset that Carlos was the one who killed her brother Trevor all those months ago. Carlos hasn’t been able to stop thinking about or searching for her, but he still has ghostly shenanigans requiring his attention. Case in point: a recent series of strange accidents and deaths occurring every single night at Von King Park. As Carlos investigates the murders, he discovers the masterminds behind them are not only insidiously creepy, but that he’s not the only one who wants to take them down.

Kia was first introduced in Half-Resurrection Blues as the smart, take-no-shit teenager running the counter at Baba Eddie’s botánica. She’s never had reason to think Carlos was anything but human. (Weird maybe, but definitely human.) After she gets attacked by a ghost at Von King Park, Kia picks up Carlos’ ability to see ghosts, and she demands to help him find the people controlling the ghost who tried to murder her like all the others. And what Carlos and Kia discover are roaches. Big, pale-pink roaches, who live underneath the skin of humans involved in a terrifying cult dedicated to survival amidst destruction. They also find another ally.

Reza is a middle-aged, butch lesbian who takes her attitude and confidence from her dapper clothing. She’s a hardened, veteran killer who’s worked for years as part of a dangerous criminal ring. Her rules? Never be outgunned, and if you’re going to kill a thing, kill it dead. Reza has been mourning the loss of her lover Angie for months, but she hasn’t been able to find her body—that is, until one night when a job goes wrong, and Reza runs into a horde of pale-pink cockroaches, interrupts a bloody ritual in progress, and finds pieces of Angie’s body. Reza will do whatever it takes to kill the cockroaches and their masters as dead as they can be. To do that, she’s going to need Carlos and Kia’s help.

Where do I even start? Daniel José Older’s writing is as visually evocative and arresting as before, and his character writing is really damn good. Honestly the beauty of this book mostly lies in the hands of Kia and Reza because dear god, they are each amazing in their own respective ways. I love Kia’s confidence as she walks through and takes up space in the world around her, but also when it comes to stepping up to fight supernatural battles she definitely didn’t sign up for, but are out to kill her and those she loves. She is incredibly blunt, and isn’t afraid to tell someone they’re full of shit, even if they’re an adult—sometimes especially if they’re an adult, particularly when that adult is Carlos:

“The way I see it, you’re like thirty or whatever yeah, but in a way you’re like a tall five-year-old. Emotionally speaking, I mean, you lost all your memories, right? So you don’t have, like the emotional ABCs that a normal fully alive adult does. You haven’t been through the ringer in the same way, right?”

Reza…well, she’s Reza. She is my favorite character in the entire series so far, and a lot of that is because I have a weakness for hardened female characters who go by their own code and are upfront, honest, and unashamed in who they are, the violence they commit, and the confidence in their skill. And visually, Reza makes such a dashing figure in her sharp gray suit, steel-tipped alligator boots, and hidden array of weapons. I want to know everything about her—her childhood, her involvement in the criminal organization and the direction it’s currently going, her and Angie, her and her tentative new paramour. (Hi, I don’t have a crush on Reza, nope, not at all.)

I am also a sucker for characters who have walls of steel around their hearts who then join up with people that give them reason to ever-so-slowly lower them a smidge. Reza’s code when she’s on a job has been Angie. Now that Angie’s dead, that means avenging her and getting all the fuckers involved in her death. In order to do that, she teams up with Carlos and Kia and the rest of their compatriots to rain fire and hell on the creepy cockroach cult. In doing so, Reza forces herself to feel even a sliver of hope, for her partners and for herself.

Seven paragraphs in and I haven’t said much about Carlos, who’s ostensibly the main character of this series. He may have been sidelined to the shadows due to the awesomeness of Kia and Reza, but his storyline in Midnight Taxi Tango is still strong, building off his lack of knowledge over his identity and what he’s doing or should be doing as an in-betweener. Carlos begins the book off-balance with the knowledge that he’s a father, but his children and their mother are nowhere to be found. And when Sasha and their twin children are in danger from the creepy cockroach cult, Carlos turns into RAGE MONSTER to the point where it incapacitates him, and Reza and Kia have to effectively bench him from fighting until he can get his emotions under control. It’s heartbreaking how much Carlos wants to protect Sasha and their children from harm—he and Sasha are in-betweeners, half-living and half-dead, and the two of them created life. And there’s a serious possibility those two small lives will be snuffed out, along with Sasha’s. For the first time since Carlos was resurrected, he has people he loves unconditionally to the point where he can’t think straight, and much of his journey in this book is channelling that love so he can find and protect his family.

I’m starting to get the sense that plot will never be this series’ strong suit. That being said, the plot of Midnight Taxi Tango was much more solid compared to that of the first book, and felt more confident in its execution. This book did a wonderful job balancing the three different POVs as the plot and pacing ramped up, especially near the book’s climax when the POVs jumped from one character to the next and back again in the space of a page.

In my review of Half-Resurrection Blues, I spent little time talking about the New York Council of the Dead, but they are present and accounted for in this book, just as inanely bureaucratic, and even more suspiciously corrupt and self-serving than before. I’m curious how the Council and their hidden agenda will figure into later books as the series progresses and at what point Carlos will cut his losses and leave them for good.

Honestly, I don’t have any major criticisms of this book. The one narrative hole that kept bugging me was that Kia’s family remained seemingly unaware of both her new extracurricular supernatural activities, and no one called or texted her asking why she didn’t go to school, or hadn’t been home in several days.

I was pretty into this series after Half-Resurrection Blues, but having finished Midnight Taxi Tango, I am fully on board. I am also officially annoyed I have to wait at least another year to read the next book. I’m really looking forward to more of Reza and Kia (and ok, Carlos too), and I’m excited to see what new conspiracies and supernatural problems they’ll uncover. I definitely recommend these books, especially Midnight Taxi Tango.

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One thought on “Review: Midnight Taxi Tango by Daniel José Older

  1. Pingback: My Favorite Reads of 2016 | Alive and Narrating

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