Welcome to our monthly Indie Author Spotlight! This is a feature posted on the last Friday of the month, where we be spotlight an independent/self-published author and their book. Giving an indie author a chance can be like rolling the dice, but then you have those moments when you discover an amazing book and you just can’t shut up about it. So, here at Reviews In A Pinch we wanted to do something that could help both the authors and readers.
Every month, you’ll be able to read a new book’s synopsis, learn a little more about the author and even read through an excerpt from the book. If you’re interested in reading more and supporting that month’s Indie Author, there will be purchase links for Amazon and Barnes & Noble after the excerpt.
This month we’ll be learning a little more about Eirik Moe Dahll-Larssøn and his debut novel, In the Seraphim City. See more below:
In the Seraphim City by Eirik Moe Dahll-Larssøn
Published: June 1, 2015
For centuries, the city grew. Aided by the Alchemists, it grew past any boundary, until its lower levels could no longer sustain life. It grew until its foundation fell, its core became decrepit, and it grew until it reached the sky.
Only the Alchemists remain, shunned and hated, in the bowels of this monstrosity; in the rotted centre of the city called the Hive. Up above live the rest. On the Surface, and on the grand island floating in the sky, the Plateau. Few still fight for the rights of those forgotten – for the Alchemists who helped the city climb so high. They are left to rot at the city’s feet.
None seem to care, or even remember that they are still there, waiting to be let free. To smell the open air, and to see the sky again. None but Ian Allant. A man whose life was spent attempting to bridge the gap between the people above and those left below – and to bring light to the darkest corners of the city.
Theodore Donovan is tasked with finding the people responsible for his death. He descends into the endless night below, and finds that there is more to the truth than he bargained for – and that Ian Allant’s murder is perhaps better left unsolved.
About the Author:
Eirik M. Dahll-Larssøn has spent most of his life in fiction, and before long decided hey, why not try his hand at it. He’s written two previous novels, neither of which anyone read, because he threw them off a cliff as soon as they were finished. He’s currently living in Bergen, Norway, with his girlfriend and their imaginary dog, Waffle.
“Alright,” he said, when he’d finally reached Tegan, “Take me to the body.” He stopped for a moment to look properly at the woman in front of him. He noticed the bags under her eyes, the uncharacteristically untidy hair, the stain on her shirt and the mismatched earrings. Her pants were crumpled and her shoes splattered with mud. Tegan was never this messy. Even when called in on an emergency, she wasn’t this messy. And mud? Mud from where? Rain hardly ever happened on the Plateau, the pylons made sure of that. There weren’t exactly any natural wetlands around either – they were on a floating island in the sky, after all.
“No body,” Tegan said. She turned around and began moving towards the entrance to the Stadium, not even bothering to beckon Theo to follow. He did anyway.
“No body? What do you—”
“There was a bomb,” she said simply. “Alchemical. Soundless, smokeless, whatever. There’s no body.”
“Please don’t tell me you’re gonna make me, uh…” Theo swallowed and shut his eyes. “…look at chunks.”
Tegan kept moving, not stopping to look back. She pushed the double doors open and the sun shone through, blinding Theo for a second. “No body,” she said, “No chunks… no nothing.”
He heard the doors close behind them. Holding a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun, he looked out at the place where the Arcanum Stadium had once been, and nearly fell flat on his back from the shock of it.
“Just this,” Tegan said quietly.
Where there once had been thousands of seats surrounding a massive, flat field covered in phony grass, there was now only a gaping maw of mud and scorched earth. It stretched across the field in a perfect circle, the explosion seemingly having dissolved at just the edge of the stadium – enough to devour its speakers and any crowds (had there been any), but not enough to compromise the building itself. Pipes were sticking out of the ground at the edges of the arena, water dripping at the muddy ground below.
Theo’s mind began stirring, the part of it not consumed with shock or terror trying to comprehend exactly what he was looking at. The bomb had been Alchemical, obviously; traditional explosives were not this exact, not this predictable or controllable. But even in the Alchemical world, Theo knew, very few people had the skills to create a controlled explosion of this magnitude – very few. Off the top of his head, in fact, he could not think of any.
“Son of a…” he heard himself say to Tegan, who seemed to be trying to look away, “This is… insane.”
“Yeah,” she said quietly. “Come. Come with me.”
He didn’t need asking twice.
She led him around the edge of the field, toward the exact opposite side of where they’d come in – towards the manager’s offices. The offices were far less lavish than the entrance hall had been; an office landscape within a box of simple stone floors and walls, with the occasional carpet to break up the monotony. At the moment, the offices were filled to the brim with police – forensics, high-ranking officers and investigators were all crammed together. They all seemed to have the same look of dull shock on their faces, and were all exceptionally pale.
“Here,” Tegan said, directing Theo towards a desk at the far end of the room. The desk was covered in papers, photos, and block pads with doodles on them, as well as some post-its with various crude drawings.
“Alright,” Theo said, “Let’s hear it.”
Tegan nodded. She looked as if she’d never wanted to speak less. “Last night, Ian Allant leaves his room at the Hotel Sol,” she said, lighting a cigarette. “His bodyguards tail him, lose him for a while, then find him again as he comes back. As it turns out…” She drew deep from the cigarette in her hand. “It wasn’t him. It was his decoy.” She coughed.
Theo raised an eyebrow. “He had a decoy? What, on retainer?”
Tegan shrugged. “Apparently,” she said, blowing smoke up into the room again, “It was a common thing, according to them. He’d go off on his own constantly, just for the hell of it. Go drinking, clubbing, to the arcade, whatever he felt like. He’d grow a fake beard or a massive moustache, or colour his hair; some Alchemical thing, so people wouldn’t recognize him. Sometimes he’d be gone days.”
“Seems like a stupid thing to do.”
Tegan smiled darkly. “Valued a personal life, I suppose.”
“Alright, so the decoy pulls the bodyguards. And then?”
“Ian Allant comes here.”
“For what? The ambiance?”
“Practice his speech for tomorrow, probably. Or, well, today, I guess. I don’t know.” She sighed and rubbed her eyes.
The ashes from the cigarette fell onto the desk. Theo glanced nervously at it, like it was going to make one of the post-its catch fire.
“And then he gets blown to bits?” he asked, pushing the papers aside as subtly as he could.
“Yep. Alchemical compound, like I said. Obviously. Made no sound, no explosion. Barely any sign of it at all, if we believe the neighbours.”
“And we do?”
Tegan shrugged. “No reason not to, really. Not yet, anyway. We’re ferrying people to the station now, for interrogation.”
“Friends? Family? Any personal motivation?”
“We’ll see. Not likely, though. Everyone was pretty outspoken about their liking him. Except maybe his brother, but it’s not like he was out against him. He’s just somewhat of a recluse. Or became one in the past couple of years, at least, since the Nia Seren debacle. We’ll keep an eye on him, take him in to look at the security tape.” She took another drag off the cigarette and sent another cloud towards the ceiling. “We need a positive ID before we can move forward, but there’s no real doubt.”
“Alright.” Theo paused, thinking. “So if Allant wasn’t planning on being here until tomorrow,” he said, “Then how did the bombers know he was here?”
“Well, our assumption is they didn’t. They were here setting the bomb up. Remote switches and so on. Then, Allant enters the scene. Remote switches tend to fail more often than not, so they probably thought it’d be a safer bet this way. A guarantee. We’re not sure how they got in in the first place, but we’ll review the tapes and see what we find.”
“So when Allant wandered in in the middle of the night, they decided to blow the place up immediately? Wouldn’t that mean they’re still in the building?”
“We did a sweep. Building’s empty. If they were here, they went up in the explosion, same as Allant.”
“Martyrdom? Seems extreme.”
“They’re called extremists for a reason, I suppose.”
Tegan crossed her arms. “You got a better solution?”
Theo held his hands up in surrender. “Alright,” he said. If they’d really blown themselves up, it was very likely this wasn’t personally motivated. People rarely blew themselves to pieces for the sake of a personal vendetta. It didn’t leave a lot of time to gloat.
He scratched his chin. “So who do we think pulled the trigger?”
Tegan shoved the stuff on the desk aside and pulled out two things from the inner pocket of her coat: a copy of a photograph, and a small plastic bag. The photo was of a tall, muscular man dressed in red. He was kneeling down and pointing to some writing and a symbol on the ground, with a rifle slung over his shoulder. His face was contorted with anger.
Theo took the photo and squinted. The image was of hundreds of little white dots, each with a black shadow dot next to them. Together they formed a large tree, ostensibly white, but with always-present shadow-branches hanging under and around it. He looked down, tried to make out the words.
“The… Pyrrhic Tree? The Hive group?”
Tegan nodded. “Might be an offshoot, might just be a red herring. We figure they haven’t disbanded entirely, but if this is them, it’s their first major appearance in about twenty years. They were big before the Plateau launched, but sending every major target they had several miles into the sky seemed to do the trick. The bombings stopped and it didn’t take long for the threats to abate either – at the time, the assumption was that they just didn’t have the resources to keep going.”
“So you don’t think it’s them?”
Tegan shrugged. “No idea. They’ll have changed a lot, if it is – Allant was pretty major on the pro-Alchemy, Hive integration front. Makes no sense to kill him.” She sighed and picked up the plastic bag, handing it to Theo. He pocketed the photo and took the bag, holding it up against the light and examining the piece of paper closely. He could make out the words ‘scatter’ and ‘foundation’ written very neatly on it.
“And what does this mean?” he asked.
“No idea,” Tegan said, shrugging. “They’re the only two clues we have, though. We found both next to a locker in the wardrobe, by Allant’s shoes and jacket. The letter was in the trash, still warm. The photo had been hung on his door.”
“Why’d he take his shoes off?”
Theo pulled out a small notepad and a pen from inside his jacket. “When did the bomb go off?” he asked.
“According to the residents, about three hours ago.”
“That’d be…” He checked his watch. “Pretty much exactly three in the morning.”
“Alright. Do you know the compound used? Type of bomb, anything like that?”
“Other than obviously Alchemy-made, nothing. Just scorched earth.”
Theo frowned. “What was his speech gonna be about?”
Tegan began shuffling through her pockets again, stopping once or twice to throw out energy bar wrappers, before pulling out a small pamphlet bearing Allant’s picture. He was grinning like only people on pamphlets can; simultaneously terrifying and inviting, and altogether far too staged for comfort. The title beneath him read, “The Power of Tomorrow”.
Theo took it, unable to stop himself from smiling. “They’re giving out pamphlets for politician’s speeches now?”
“Apparently,” Tegan said. “Although Allant wasn’t exactly a politician. More of an activist or… or something. Hell if I know what he was. I just know people liked him.”
Theo leafed through the small brochure, skimming through its contents. The speech was scheduled for that afternoon. It was supposed to detail a hypothetical plan for reopening the power plants down in the Hive under government supervision. The way he’d structured it, it would open a lot of job opportunities for the people living in the Hive, as well as giving the government a real foothold in the region – something they currently sorely lacked. Even getting any kind of fundamental news out of the Hive was all but impossible at this point – most of what they thought they knew about the place was conjecture. Theo had been down there himself several times, but never past the top layer, and even he knew very little of what actually went on down there.
He couldn’t help but shake his head. It was a good bit, he’d give Allant that, but it failed to consider what direct government involvement in the Hive meant – namely, the exposing of the various crime lords and drug rings to the police, and the judicial system. Even Allant couldn’t talk his way out of the clusterfuck of riots and casualties that would follow. But then, that had always been Allant’s MO. An appealing narrative overriding logic – we go in, do this one thing, and then everything’s okay. Then everyone wins. At least it sparked debate.
Or, maybe there was more to it. He’d never find out now.
“Thoughts?” Tegan asked. She had been reading over his shoulder, but seemed to get nothing out of
“It’s either brilliant or moronic,” Theo said, pocketing it. “Ok, let me write this down.” He wrote intently for a little bit, then showed the notes to Tegan. “That about right?”
Tegan took the pad and began reading out loud. “Ian Allant, died when a bomb went off in the Arcanum. Killers also died in the explosions – not hired guns, likely terrorists, extremists. Motivation for murder likely political. The Pyrrhic Tree could be involved – investigate further. Clues on the scene: photograph of a Pyrrhic, and a burned letter with the words ‘foundation’ and ‘scatter’ eligible. Could be trouble.” She paused and looked up at him. “’Could be trouble’? What does that mean? Isn’t this enough trouble already?”
“That word, ‘foundation’,” Theo said, snatching the notebook from Tegan’s hand. “In the Hive, it refers to a failed project a lot of the higher-ups were involved with a while back. They were gonna send people into the foundation of the city. Down into the old town at the bottom. Try getting a settlement of people down there.”
Tegan laughed. “That’s ridiculous. There’s nothing down there but ruins and toxic shit, how’s anyone gonna survive down there without gluing themselves to a hazmat suit?”
“Hey, I said ‘failed’, didn’t I?” Theo said, shrugging. “Doesn’t matter now, anyway.”
“They abandoned it, years ago.”
“So why are you bringing it up?”
Theo raised an eyebrow, glancing over at her. “What, you have something else I can go on? I’ve got a photo and some charcoal, there’s gonna be some shots in the dark, Tegan.”
“Fine.” She sighed and rubbed her eyes again. She looked worn, tired and sluggish, and clearly longing to be elsewhere. “Where are you starting?”
“Family off-limits?” Theo asked, giving her a furtive glance.
“There’s only his brother. And yes, thoroughly,” Tegan said. She shot him a warning glance. “We’ll deal with interviews and interrogations, and I’ll send you any relevant info we get. You just take care of the unknowns, alright?”
“Alright,” he said, forcing a smile that didn’t take. “Take me to where you found the photo.”