Another in the authors’ series of gumshoe fantasies (Point of Hopes, 1995) set in a Renaissance world where both magic and astrology work. Winter approaches; it’s the time of the ghost-tide when ghosts become visible and crowd the streets of Astreiant. Newly promoted Adjunct Point (policeman) Nico Rathe receives a request to investigate a death. City lawyer Kurin Holles found his lover dead. Now the lover’s ghost has failed to appear: it’s been magically bound, therefore with a strong suspicion that the man was murdered. Rathe has great difficulty in persuading city officials to agree to an investigation. And when they finally, reluctantly, do, the investigator assigned is Voillemin, Rathe’s subordinate. Voillemin quickly demonstrates his intention of doing nothing whatsoever to progress the case. Meanwhile, ex-soldier Lieutenant Philip Eslingen finds a new situation teaching actors how to fight, duel, drill, etc., for the midwinter masque, The Alphabet of Desire. First, however, he must qualify by combat for membership in the Masters of the Guild of Defense. There are complications: another book, also called The Alphabet of Desire, contains spells that, alarmingly, may even work; plus, there will be fraudulent copies printed and sold. The two cases may be linked: Rathe’s dead man had in his possession a copy of the magic Alphabet. More murders swiftly follow.
If replete with rather fussy detail, the scenario’s unusually well developed and intricately plotted: a solidly engrossing entry in this tolerably persuasive series.