I'm not sure where to start with this one, I guess you start with the most distinctive mark and go on from there. Any criminal plying his trade in Gotham City knows that's Batman's city, and criminals have to factor in his claim to it before doing their crime. Ditto for Metropolis and Superman. Any alien race knows that the Earth is under the protection of The Doctor. You get the idea. Well, the same goes for the living, the undead, the supernatural, the preternatural, basically the denizens of Urban Fantasy in Seattle -- they're in Marley Jacobs' city, and they'd better act like it.
What makes Jacobs stand out from Harry Dresden, Atticus O'Sullivan, Daisy Johanssen, Kitty Norville, etc. isn't her collection of eccentricities, though she has plenty, it's that she's on the older side -- 65, I think. She's pretty wealthy -- and has many wealthy friends. But most of all, she's a pacifist -- other than her persuasion and charm, her powers (or the powers of any working with her) will not be used for violent/destructive/harmful purposes. Period. It's not that she gives some half-hearted try for a page or two before giving up and throwing spells around, she just won't. Think about that for a second. She has to be smarter, faster (on foot and mentally), and more determined than those she finds herself opposing.
...and if you ever look at a love potion/spell the same way again after hearing Marley describe the true nature of them? Check yourself.
Her nephew is living with her for a while. Albert is just back from serving in oversees, looking for work, getting treatments from the VA and trying to keep himself together, when his brother (not the world's greatest anything) is killed. Apparently by a vampire. Marley has to find out what happened to him and why, and brings Albert along. This is his introduction to a world he thought was mere fiction, and to Marley's approach to problems. Both are difficult for him, as much as he wants to leave his past behind. Soon, they discover that Albert's brother was into the supernatural goings-on of Seattle without his Aunt knowing, and what he was up to just might have got him killed (or it was due to him being a horrible person).
I'm not even going to try to describe how werewolves, vampires, hunters, etc. work in Connolly's world here -- you'll have too much fun finding out for yourself.
This was a lighter UF adventure -- especially when compared to Connolly's Twenty Palaces books, but almost any would make it seem lighter. And he deals with the fun the same way he deals with the grim -- with skill and confidence. The story moves along at a nice clip, educating the reader about the world as Albert's being taught.
Character, philosophy, story, magic system, the ways that UF staples are dealt with -- all distinct, all serving the different kind of story that this is, and used/written in an almost perfect way. I don't want to oversell this, and I know I'm in danger of it -- but really, folks -- this one is special. The only real complaint I have is that this is a stand-alone. You will like these characters, this world, and this story and you will want more. One day soon, I hope, Fantasy/Urban Fantasy readers are going to wake up and realize what kind of writer they've been ignoring. Until then, count me in for whatever comes next from Connolly.
Disclaimer: I should probably add that I got this as a backer reward for supporting The Great Way's Kickstarter. But that really didn't impact my take on the book, it just meant I read it earlier and for less money than I would've otherwise.