This may get another reread in the near future because I have some mixed feelings on this first read. I don’t know if it’s just been so long since I read White Cat or if it was my mood in general. I did really like Red Glove and I really want to read Black Heart, but I can’t put my finger on why I’m not jumping up and down, singing this book’s praises.I still like Cassel, and I think that he works extremely well as an unreliable narrator, especially in this book. And I really like his internal conflict in Book 2; the complication of “protecting your family versus doing what’s right,” and even with his interactions with Lila. I like that neither conflict is presented as completely black and white, and that there are complications to what Cassel wants from life and what to do. I like that he wants to protect his family, but he doesn’t want them to wash away all of the crime in their lives. And with Lila, I like that even though Cassel wants to be with her, he’s willing to stay away from her until her curse is broken. (The fact that he manages to continuously fuck up with her, and what he tries to do at the end—the fact that it’s a dick move and Lila calls him out on going that route, well done.) I really like Cassel as a main character in general—he’s messed up and pulls cons and scares people (I like Sam’s admittance that he thought Cassel was going to kill him during their living together and Wallingford). But I like that he’s willing to do the right thing, even if it involves getting his hands dirty.The other major thing that I like about this book is that Black nails one of the essentials to a second book—expanding the previously-introduced world. In White Cat, it was a little too subtle with the world-building at times and only to info-dump about the history of the curse workers. But I like that we get to see the other side of the coin, all of the non-criminal workers who get damned by the general public. I loved the scene at the protest, with Cassel and his friends getting arrested; I loved the HEX meetings and the fallout from the exposure. (Actually, one of the small bits that I loved that attributed to the world-building was a throwaway line about a dirty joke involving girls with bare hands.) My slight problem here is the mystery, or rather, the multiple mysteries. Yes, they tie into to each other, but the plot cuts back and forth to Philip’s killer and then to the past murders/transformations and what happened in Cassel’s past. But it seemed like that Philip’s murder seemed to fall to the wayside at times and vice versa, that I couldn’t remember what mystery I was following. The revelation of Philip’s killer isn’t a huge surprise, as well as who hired Cassel to make all of the mafia hits, but it’s barely hinted at and Black uses a lot of misdirection to suggest it’s an entirely different suspect. There’s very little foreshadowing as to who the killer is, and it feels more like an out-of-nowhere reveal. The mystery in White Cat was well-done, and this feels like a let-down.The other slight problem I had was Lila. She was such an enigmatic character in the first book for very obvious reasons, so I was interested in seeing her around and how Cassel deals with her in the flesh. (I do really like the implication that Cassel’s in love with the idea of Lila rather than being in love with her.) I do like her regal bearing, it fits her upbringing and lifestyle; but part of me wanted her to be more awkward. Considering the whole plot of the first book, I’m really not sure that Lila would be that comfortable in school, three months after she transforms back into human. Yes, she’s withdrawn and holds herself above everyone else, but it feels more due to her being a mafia princess rather than spending three years as a cat.Daneca and Sam—Sam’s probably my favorite character in the whole series. I like that he doesn’t take a lot of bullshit from others, and I love that his relationship with Cassel is based on this uneasy trust. (And the fact that Sam is willing to help Cassel out on the cons just to test out his special effects.) He’s snarky and funny and I love his whole relationship with Daneca. AND CAN WE TALK ABOUT DANECA. I did not call that she was an emotion worker. For the problems with the main mysteries, Black’s misdirection actually works with Daneca. She could be taken as a hippie-granola girl who does want to fix every injustice in the world, and so when it’s revealed that she is a worker, it’s not a out-of-left field revelation, but it’s still a nice surprise. And that she’s specifically an emotion worker brings a whole new level to her relationship with Sam, and I love that I genuinely never called into question Sam’s feelings for her. Despite the weak mysteries, I did like reading this and I did enjoy large parts of the book. But while the noir style and the plot twists didn’t work as well this time, I did really like the character development and the view from the other side of workers. And despite my reservations about this book, I’m very excited to read Black Heart in the near future.