Part historical novel, part supernatural thriller and part murder mystery, this inventive book by D.B. Jackson (alias David B. Coe, of the Blood of the Southlands series) has a lot of obstacles to dodge; but not as many as its hero, Ethan Kaille.
Ethan is a "thieftaker"—a bounty hunter who recovers stolen goods—in pre-Revolutionary War Boston. He's also a conjurer of magic, a skill that's run him into trouble in the past. When he's hired to find a brooch taken from a young woman who's been murdered, he suspects that something bigger may be afoot. Unfortunately for him, he's correct. Ethan deduces that the murder is somehow connected to the anti-British riots that have begun to spring up in the colonies. And since the body has no scars, he guesses she's been killed by magic—and as he soon learns, by a conjurer far more powerful than he. The conjurer's identity is the book's running mystery—and to solve it, Ethan has to face statesmen on both sides of the impending Revolution who want him dead or tried as a witch. Not to mention rival thieftaker Sephira Pryce, whose murderous henchmen tend to show up at the least opportune times. Blending genres is seldom easy, but the historical and supernatural elements work together seamlessly. The plot is lively with period color (Thomas Hutchinson and John Adams both make appearances) and vivid support characters, notably the seductive Pryce and the ghost girl Anna. It's essentially a well-turned mystery whose supernatural elements add to the intrigue. Jackson only errs by stacking the cards too heavily against his hero: As Ethan closes in on the killer, he undergoes so many magic-induced tortures and old-fashioned beatings that his eventual triumph seems less credible; and these scenes make Thieftaker just a share darker than necessary.