Follow-up to the dark urban historical fantasy Thieftaker (2012), from an author who also writes as David B. Coe.
In the rough, tough pre-Revolutionary Boston of 1768, former sailor and ex-convict Ethan Kaille uses magic, or “conjuring,” in his current profession of thieftaking, tracking down stolen goods for reward. His great rival is the lissome Sephira Pryce and her gang of thugs, who all too often reach Ethan’s quarry before he does. Tension and unrest in the city, aroused by resentment against taxes, has prompted the British to anchor a substantial fleet in Boston Harbor and prepare to send the redcoats ashore. Though loyalists like Ethan are in the majority, the impending occupation is causing some to have second thoughts, and while revolutionaries like Samuel Adams do not advocate violence, their support is growing. Furthermore, many people consider conjurors to be witches who should be burned. Thanks to Ethan’s hitherto supercilious brother-in-law, Geoffrey Brower, who suspects Ethan’s secret talents, Royal Navy Lt. William Senhouse asks Ethan to investigate a chilling incident: the mysterious, simultaneous deaths of more than 100 men aboard one of the British ships. Like City Sheriff Greenleaf, another of the witch-burning faction, Ethan soon grasps that a powerful spell murdered the men. But what was the motive behind the crime? When Sephira Pryce turns out to be involved, Ethan knows that money—a large amount of it—lies at the root. Can Ethan unravel the case without falling victim to a conjuror of vastly greater power while avoiding condemnation as a witch himself? Splendid period detail and spell-casting in church Latin combine felicitously with the contemporary gumshoe-noir tone, even if the plotting turns out rather more mundane than the intriguing backdrop promises.
An unusual series of great promise.