I recently finished reading Midnight Taxi Tango, the sequel to Half-Resurrection Blues and second in the Bone Street Rumba series, by Daniel José Older. This story continues the story of Carlos, a half-dead Latino man who works for the ghostly government known as the Council of the Dead. While it uses Carlos to connect Half-Resurrection Blues to Midnight Taxi Tango, it also expands the story by centering around two other characters, Kia and Reza. Kia, who was a minor character in HRB and a friend of Carlos’s, is a teenage girl who ends up being able to see ghosts. Reza is a part of a former drug ring now looking to do some right and get revenge, who stumbles upon some gross cockroaches looking to take over the world, alive and dead included.
Older does a really good job of balancing the creepy with humor. Because the story is firmly in the noir genre and largely centers around ghosts and the supernatural, it tends to be dark and often times scary. However, Older uses his characters to infuse humor throughout the story, which not only makes the characters feel more well-rounded, but adds some levity to the story and gives us breaks from the ghosts and killer cockroaches.
I was really happy we got to see more Kia, who looks super badass with the machete on the cover. In Half-Resurrection Blues, she was only there briefly but even then it was clear there was more to her story. It was great to get her inner thoughts, see her backstory, and watch her character grow, both on her own and in relation to the other characters. I loved the addition of Reza, who hit it off with Carlos and Kia fairly quickly despite coming from a far different background. She was so badass and was easily able to believe in ghosts, and the half-dead. I would like to say that I would behave like Kia if I were ever put in a situation like that, but I would definitely be Victor, the EMT who is down to ride, but stays behind when it’s time to actually fight. I also loved the continuation of Carlos and Sasha’s relationship. It was clear from the beginning of the series that the two of them had a deeper connection than people who barely know each other, despite the bad things they have put each other through and have gone through together.
One of the things I really liked about the story was the development of the Council of the Dead. In Half-Resurrection Blues, they were mostly portrayed as being a bureaucratic mess, which while frustrating for Carlos and his partner, felt a bit humorous to me in that even in death bureaucracy can get in the way of some of the most simple things. However, in Midnight Taxi Tango, it becomes clear that underneath all the government protocols is something possibly much more nefarious happening with the ghosts who get to decide who can continue “living” in the real world and who has to go to deeper death.
The best thing about this story is that is centers around people of color with white people at the periphery. It’s refreshing to read a story where people who look like me are the ones who matter, the ones at the center of the drama, even if that drama is creepy killer cockroaches spilling out of dark tunnels. What’s interesting is that most of the time, white people are mentioned or shown as ways to talk about and illustrate privilege, be it the hipsters walking around Brooklyn or the wealthy parents employing the Jamaican teenager to watch their kids (which gloriously backfires). It’s dope that these topics can still be explored and be an important part of the story despite having nothing to do with the plot on the surface. The story is driven by the setting in a lot of ways, and having these commentaries, and majority POC characters, paints a vivid picture of Brooklyn, even for someone who’s only ever been there for a few hours.
I would absolutely recommend that you read Midnight Taxi Tango, though of course, only after Half-Resurrection Blues. I can’t wait until the finale of the Bone Street Rumba trilogy, Battle Hill Bolero, drops. I mean look at Sasha serving all this half-dead fierceness!
Up next on Bayana’s Book Corner: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin