Life during the Depression ain’t easy, but the last toughs of Toronto’s criminal underground find themselves cornered when the boss got busted by those damn masked heroes. The terrific twosome of Toronto, the Red Panda and the Flying Squirrel, have been picking off the gangs one by one, and their survivors had enough.
“The Red Panda’s days are numbered!”
The remaining mobsters ally with supervillains and plan the greatest caper to defeat the Red Panda. While our courageous masked heroes have the powers of hypnotism, gliding membranes, and a dozen martial arts on their side–can they defend Toronto against the combined forces of the criminal underground, Kid Chaos’ explosives, and the Professor’s army of zombies? Can our heroes match the strength of… The Crime Cabal?
The Crime Cabal is a joy to read, and it reverberates with the energy of the Red Panda Adventures podcast series. The Squirrel is sassy and charming as ever, supporting characters such as Constable Parker are fleshed out, and snapshots into the lives of Toronto’s denizens provide colour to a thrilling old-school pulp adventure. The work especially shines in the fight scenes, which are fluid, fun, and fantastic–in all senses of the word.
Taylor has been writing scripts for Red Panda Adventures podcasts since 2005 in the style of 1930s and 1940s radio programs like The Shadow. The Crime Cabal is the first volume of three in the Tales of the Red Panda series. This book is well written, but Taylor’s heavy experience in writing scripts relative to writing prose shows in a few of the scenes. Some of the dialogue doesn’t quite capture that snappy, bantering rhythm that the characters should be having, and some of the emotions don’t carry through. The narration switches between points of view in the same scene, which is handled smoothly particularly with the villains, but is a distraction in others–especially in interactions between the two protagonists. I would prefer some scenes changed to third-person limited.
Considering that the Red Panda Adventures’ native medium is the radio show podcast, I recommend listening to a few episodes of the podcast first (they’re free) to get acquainted with the characters and the universe. If you find yourself listening to three, four, and more episodes… then the next step is to read this book and get deeper into the Pandaverse.
Overall, The Crime Cabal is great. It captures an effortless wit and playfulness in the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs. It’s not only a homage, but a realization of the pulp tradition–weaving together a fantastic universe of masked heroes that modern readers can immerse themselves in, both young and old alike. To my knowledge, the Red Panda series is the best in new pulp, and is at the forefront of pulp renewal. I’ll be reading the rest of the series and hope that Taylor continues to be a prolific prose writer, scriptwriter, actor, director, podcaster, et al. in the years to come… because I’ll be needin’ my Panda fix.
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(reviewed 4 days after purchase)