Three operatives work to solve a string of murders committed by sorcery, but their investigation leads them to question both their own secretive employers and the ethics of using magic, in this novel by fantasist Brust (Vallista, 2017, etc.).
Donovan is a skilled investigator, and legally dead. He leads Marci, a sorcerer who specializes in charms and picking up the lingering signatures of spells cast, and Susan, a gifted martial artist, as an investigative team for the Foundation, a mysterious society that recruits and trains sorcerers and whose mandate is to make sure "civilians" don't learn about magic's existence. But when seemingly random people start being killed by magic, the trio must call upon all their gifts to discover the common thread connecting the victims. In doing so, they're frequently frustrated by their own minimum-wage pay and the Foundation's penny-pinching internal bureaucracy...a conceit that is cute the first time but wears thin as the Foundation's full power becomes clear (it seems like our heroes earn minimum wage for no deeper reason than allowing them to gripe about it). Their investigation raises more questions: what's the connection between the Foundation and their ancient rivals, the Mystici? Is there a mole in the Foundation—perhaps their own enigmatic supervisor? Most importantly, do sorcerers have a moral obligation to use their powers well? Some questions get answered satisfactorily and others less so; the moments of climactic confrontation are often shunted off-screen in favor of reflections after the fact. It's telling that after experiencing personal loss and delving into the Foundation's secrets, the characters' biggest change at the end is simply getting a bonus.
An engaging cast can't entirely save this novel from the leaps it asks readers to make. The story often fizzles where it should bang.