First hardcover appearance for Lackey's Bardic Voices series (The Eagle and the Nightingales, etc.). In the city of Haldene, constable Tal Rufen ponders a string of brutal murders. The victims are all poor street-musician girls, but Tal's clues are confusing: The perpetrators are also all dead (they always commit suicide right after carrying out a murder); in every case, the weapon is a knife with a characteristic blade, but somehow it invariably vanishes from the crime scene; as for the weather, it's always raining--because water washes away traces of magic? Confronted with indifference by his superiors (the cases are, after all, technically solved), Tal resigns when the murders stop and heads for Kingsford, a city in chaos where such crimes could go undetected. Sure enough, the murders begin again. Tal, now working for High Bishop Ardis, investigates and eventually discovers that a mage named Rand, who has the ability to transform himself into the Black Bird, seeks revenge for perceived wrongs done him in the past. And so he has orchestrated the murders as a means of enhancing his magical powers. Between the leisurely setup and the protracted windup lie hundreds of pages of verbose twiddling. Only fans who need everything spelled out in the tiniest detail will stick around.