When her employer is accused of assassinating the prime minister of Bar-Selehm, Anglet Sutonga is determined to clear his name. But more than just Willinghouse’s life hangs in the balance in this third installment of Hartley’s Steeplejack series.
As readers have grown to expect, the author addresses the impact of systemic racism and oppression in Bar-Selehm head-on and without euphemism. In the power vacuum, the far-right and centrist parties form a coalition under a white supremacist leader who immediately curtails the rights of the city’s black- and brown-skinned populations. Anglet and her associates are thrust into the center of the social upheaval that strives to pull the city back from the brink and toward justice. The complexity of the forces at work leave Anglet stuck and frustrated more often than in the previous books. Heart-pounding Anglet-attacked-by-animals scenes keep the plot from slowing down, and the action sequences are among the most emotional moments. Vulnerability is difficult for Anglet, especially with personal and political tensions rising, and many in her circle also mask their emotions. Some readers may be disappointed at having to deconstruct entire relationships from the subtext of terse nods and averted glances.
Though the spotlight on the political stage overpowers Anglet’s personal dramas at points, fans of the series will be eager for more. (Mystery/fantasy. 14-adult)