Third in the series (Thieves’ Quarry, 2013, etc.) about magic (“conjuring”) in the turbulent, dangerous pre-Revolutionary Boston of 1769.
One-time sailor and convict, now thieftaker, Ethan Kaille uses conjuring—a practice many consider to be witchcraft, punishable by burning—to help him track down stolen goods for reward while fending off his archrival Sephira Pryce and her gang of thugs. Despite a smallpox epidemic, British redcoats still occupy the city. Samuel Adams and his revolutionaries continue their activities and again attempt to recruit Ethan, though that subplot advances no further. Church ministers ask Ethan to investigate a series of bizarre grave desecrations involving the theft of body parts and snippets of clothing and the marking of the corpses with ritualistic designs. At first suspecting body-snatchers, Ethan soon learns that the victims are reappearing as horribly disfigured ghosts, incurring the fear and mistrust of their families. On top of that, Ethan's spells are no longer reliable. Evidently, a powerful conjurer is at work, and it doesn’t take long for Ethan to discover his opponent’s identity since the two of them clashed in the past. But what does the hostile conjurer want, and how is he causing spells to weaken? Ethan may need to enlist the help of the city’s other conjurers—his friend Mariz, who unfortunately takes his orders from Sephira; Janna Windcatcher, an old and experienced herbalist; and Gavin Black, who’s lost his powers altogether and refuses to become involved. Once again, the historical verisimilitude and atmosphere are major advantages, along with the Latin spellcasting and rather more contemporary gumshoe-noir tone. Given these promising ingredients, however, Jackson’s attempt to weave an original plot with depth and allure just fizzles.
Series fans will want to investigate, but the gloss is definitely off.