Harry Connolly, Game of Cages

Posted June 12, 2012 by Kathy Davie in

Game of Cages (Twenty Palaces, #2)Game of Cages by Harry Connolly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second in the Twenty Palaces urban fantasy series revolving around Ray Lilly, an ex-car thief striving to just survive.

My Take
Connolly yanks me in right from the start for a story that crosses horror with detective work with amateur black ops. Ray’s dilemma of how to keep secrets that are spilling out right and left felt quite real—I do enjoy it when an author gives us these seemingly impossible problems and then slips in the solution. Only, in Game of Cages, the solutions are much more the type we’d stumble over from chance. That is, if we were to be in these situations…!

There’s something so hopeful about Ray. He’s had a hard start in life. Right up until a short time ago, and, yet, he keeps putting himself out for people, trying to help them even when the change in character of the townspeople is macabre.

Wait a minute…if Catherine is supposed to be an investigator, wouldn’t she have more smarts than to go flashing around with her camera? She is such a bitch. Has she considered that the Society thought enough of Ray to have him accompany her? Has she thought that perhaps Ray getting soaked wasn’t one of his intentions? Then she keeps being surprised when she’s shot at, chased, attacked. Just what kind of investigating does she do for this particular Society that’s so safe? She’s so clueless… Her idea of sharing a room is pretty archaic, too.

It’s a warm small town with individuals who take Ray in, believe him, help him. Even when they turn against him, there’s still a collective feeling of protection. It may be on the wrong side and ya just want to skedaddle on outta there…but I can’t deny the sense of togetherness. Eek.

It’s one strange murder scene after another with dead and living victims. Normal people whose snap to the other side is more horrible because of their normality. Although I feel Connolly left us hanging between the early scenes which ignored pre-pubescents and then pulled ’em in at the end.

I do admire Ray’s chutzpah…ordering in a pepperoni pizza at a time like that, but then Connolly lost me on that one turncoat. I don’t see what the gain was.

Hmmm, one of the bad guys taunts them about the palaces they’re losing…damn, Connolly is such a tease!

The Story
Being summoned to aid Catherine investigate a reported auction of a predator, Ray and Catherine are quickly thrown into the middle of it all when they creep onto a three-car accident with an empty cage, suspicious burns, and a trail that leads to dead bodies.

Yet more bodies pile up as Ray and Catherine fall into traps, escapes, attacks, and betrayals. The peer who does show up from the Society is arrogant and useless, uncaring when Ray informs him that Catherine has been kidnapped. It takes Annalise’s curiosity to swing the balance.

The Characters
Ray Lilly is an ex-car thief. Pulled into the world of the Twenty Palace Society, he stays for two reasons: they’re keeping the police off his back and he lives to be called to action…even if he does ending up regretting it. His current abode is in the mother-in-law apartment over his Aunt Theresa and Uncle Karl‘s garage.

Catherine Little has a personality for every situation and is an investigator for the Twenty Palace Society. And she does not like Ray. She likes him even less when she learns he’s Annalise’s wooden man. Annalise Powliss is a peer for the Society and prit’ near unkillable. Talcott Arnold Pratt is the first peer on the scene. He certainly lives up to his last name!

There are four groups of people bidding at the auction: Professor Elisabeta Solorov and her Fellowship; Mr. Yin with Merpati and his troupe of bodyguards; the selfish and self-centered Mr. Kripke from Silicon Valley and his biker friend (yeah, one self- is not enough for this guy!); Herr Zahn is an ancient German with some truly scary powers, Frail seems to be his assistant, and Tattoo, a man with more protective tattoos than Ray. Regina Wilbur is the woman who “owned” Armand the dog all these years. One of the many conditions her niece Stephanie changed when she arrived. Ursula is/was the keeper of the dog.

Steve Cardinal is the head of the neighborhood watch and in charge of law enforcement until the sheriff shows up…if he ever shows up. Actually a pretty level-headed guy.


The Twenty Palace Society is a private agency whose sole agenda is to kill predators and people who use magic. Predators are “weird supernatural creatures out of the Empty Spaces”. Never a good thing for the world if they show up.

The Cover
The cover makes me feel as though it’s the night before Halloween with the orange lightning flashing in the sky behind the old brooding “Victorian” mansion as snow swirls around Ray, looking back over his shoulder.

It is a Game of Cages as Ray tries to corral the sapphire dog.

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