In this supernatural thriller, a warlock in Britain, helping the government ensnare his own kind, may have stumbled upon a revolution in the works.
Jameson Parker’s a warlock who made it out of the Dark Times as an employee of Whitehall. The era was so named after magicians, having kept their powers hidden for centuries, suddenly became territorial and starting fighting one another. Whitehall then sought warlocks to destroy, or as in the case of Parker, make turncoats to track down others. Parker’s latest case involves finding an arsonist who’s clearly been using magic to burn down 15 buildings. Parker makes headway with a basic tracking spell, which he can only use after asking Whitehall for permission. Identifying the arsonist, however, may not answer everything. Rogue magician Kaitlyn van Ives, for one, suggests that an enigmatic figure known as The Rider is truly behind all the fires. But Kaitlyn herself may have orchestrated the scheme, regardless of her goal—somehow policing the magical underworld—that’s akin to Whitehall’s. Parker soon realizes that free magicians (warlocks not under the government’s thumb) are planning to rebel by storming and overthrowing Whitehall. And they may be looking to Parker, whose insubordination makes him “a symbol of disobedience,” as the one to champion their objective. Despite brimming with magic and magicians, the novel is closer in spirit to a hard-boiled detective story. Parker’s first-person voice, for example, is relentlessly cynical, readily admitting (quite often) that he’s a “dickhead.” It’s fitting that, for Parker and the warlocks surrounding him, the supernatural is second nature. Peacock (Ghosts on the Wind, 2015, etc.), accordingly, concentrates on mystery and intrigue, and pinpointing a villain (or villains) amid multiple double crosses is what fuels the narrative. Parker mocks his “keen detective skills,” but his willingness to employ elements of the mundane world—like, say, a gun—is what aligns him with the traditional and recognizable gumshoe character. He’s even aware of his cinematic potential, blasting AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” his literary soundtrack for an inevitable Whitehall confrontation. The author ties off the story’s biggest thread but leaves plenty for Parker to resolve in future books.
A sardonic, down-to-earth protagonist eases readers into a world of magic.