Cheney follows her debut (The Golden City, 2013) with a killer sequel filled with magical sea people, both living and dead.
Police consultant Duilio Ferreira is not surprised when his brother comes to him for help finding a missing girl instead of going straight to the police. In the Golden City, a richly drawn version of 1900s Lisbon in which the reigning prince has banished magical creatures, nonhumans have to keep a low profile. Like the brothers, the girl is a selkie: a seal person with an alluring scent and irresistible charm. When she turns up dead, Duilio and his police officer cousin, Joaquim, deduce that her killer has skinned her alive to harness the magical qualities of her pelt—and she’s not his only victim. It’s a clever spin on the police procedural trope of a predator who targets illegal immigrants, prostitutes or other women society neglects. And as the medical examiners get a good look at the unusual bodies that crop up, so do the readers through Cheney’s detailed descriptions of scales and tails in varying stages of decay. A medical journal called The Seat of Magic may shed light on the killer’s motive if Duilio and his crew can track him down without drawing attention to themselves, and an underground network of sympathizers who leak information to Duilio at great personal risk help underscore the growing unrest within the city that may be explored in future books. Meanwhile, the private detective turns up the heat with Oriana Paredes, the former spy for the sereia (or siren people), who's masquerading as a handmaiden after being left for dead. Though she hates hiding her gills beneath a high collar, Oriana hopes to make Duilio her mate. Oriana is no wallflower: Sereia women court the men, not the other way around. Readers may want to bookmark the page where she shows Duilio her dorsal stripe.
Intriguing and fun, the mystery unfolds like a socially conscious tour through a cabinet of curiosities.