On the tails of the first Helmut Chase novella, Helmut Saves the World, Matt Sheehan takes us back to the alternate world in Helmut Goes Abroad. The novella brings us more of the same fast-talking arrogance of Helmut, reading like Helmut’s personal blog post about his case. This really suits the short story format and Sheehan takes us on a nice ride.
Life is pretty good for me, Helmut Haase, dashing detective and ladies’ man extraordinaire. I’m the industrious and charming half of the Fog City Detective Agency. My partner, Shamus O’Sheagan, is the most gifted and lazy Druid this side of the pond, but even he’s settled down with an Amazonian police officer. Together we managed to save the world once already, but our next case is hitting closer to home.
It all started when an old friend came to our door with a wild story about angel bones and necromancers. The bones belong to Azazel, former hero of the dreaded Cretan Empire, and the necromancers want to bring him back to life. The last thing anyone wants is Azazel to return and start another angelic war.
When Shamus locates our quarry in the Mediterranean, it’s bye-bye Wudong, hello luxury voyage to Capri, with a girl in every port and downtime to work on my fighting skills. Too bad such pleasures won’t last. Not with a coven of necromancers ready to fight us to the death over those angel bones and the fate of the world…
Anyone who reads a few words from the perspective of Helmut will immediately know what kind of man he is. Put bluntly, he’s an arrogant cad. The great thing about this is Sheehan’s skill to entirely embody this character and to make him so realistically flawed. Helmut isn’t glamorous. He’s the guy who thinks he’s attractive, smart, and funny. He’s also the guy who judges people harshly and says or writes what he means. It may sound terrible, but Helmut is pretty much a dick and to be honest, and I really dig him for it. Sheehan doesn’t try to make his main character likeable. In fact, he does everything to make Helmut the kind of guy everyone loves to hate. That however, is precisely what makes the Helmut novellas so good.
All things considered, I was somewhat disappointed in the overall story of Helmut Goes Abroad. The mystery/investigation was heavy handed and simplistic. Nothing seemed to be different about the exotic location and this felt like a missed opportunity. The best moments were the conversations and quirks of Helmut and his sidekick Shamus. I could go on for days about how hilariously realistic it is to have Shamus be so ridiculously uncompromising about the privileges his dog receives. The characters drive the story and make it a worthwhile short read. I only hope that Sheehan can develop a more fascinating tale next time around.