A Murder of Mages: a novel of the Maradaine Constbulary by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Maradaine is a large, cosmopolitan city in the country of Druthal. Satrine “Tricky” Rainey grew up poor on the streets of South Maradaine but married well, to a constable, and now could be taken for a northern lady with, certainly, no knowledge of the streets. Unfortunately, her husband was crippled in an accident — in the line of duty — and now can’t even take care of himself, never mind her and their two daughters. The only work Satrine has been offered that she’d care to take is working for the constabulary — as a clerk, the wages for which are insufficient to keep the family fed and housed.
But, in addition to her time on the streets, Satrine learned a lot more tricks when she was recruited into Druth Intelligence. She forges a letter of introduction that gets her a job as an Insepctor, Third Class — enough to live on. She is teamed up with Minox “Jinx” Welling, a brilliant detective, most of whose partners have suffered various ills (hence the nickname). This is probably related to the fact that Minox is a mage–most mages in Maradaine are “circled”, that is gathered into a group with several other mages of similar inclinations. Circles provide training and protection to the mages who belong to them, among other things refusing to cooperate with the constabulary (they also provide enemies — other circles that your circle doesn’t get along with). Minox is uncircled, and thus self-trained. However, his family are all into civil service: constables, fire-fighters, river patrol, and the like. Minox closes cases, so he’s an Inspector. He and Satrine seem to get along well, which is good: someone has started murdering circled mages, and it will take all of both their skills to get to the bottom of it. And that’s in addition to the lie that got Satrine her job in the first place. Will she get caught? What will happen if she does?
Once upon a time it was assumed that there could not be fantasy/science-fiction mysteries, because magic and high-tech would make it too easy for the writer to get away with ‘cheating’. Many have proven that wrong since then, though I have a hard time thinking of any other police procedurals set in secondary worlds. Maresca has done a good job setting up the police culture of Maradaine: there are enough similarities to how things are done in modern North America to make the occasional diffference really slap you in the face when he brings them up.
Solid work, and Highly Recommended.
The Redeemers: a Quinn Colson Novel by Ace Atkins
Between the last book and this one, Tibbehah County held an election and voted Quinn Colson out as Sheriff. The new Sheriff, Rusty Wise, is an unknown quality, but Johnny Stagg, the Tibbehah Kingpin of crime, thinks that he might be a more reasonable man than Quinn. On New Year’s Eve, however, just before the transition of power, someone steals the safe out of the back room of a rich mill owner. Using a backhoe. They just remove the whole room.
That’s spectacular enough, but they not only get away with a load of money, jewelry, and such, but they unknowingly take away a bunch of ledgers that could really change things in Tibbehah. The mill owner did business with Johnny Stagg, and he had records of a lot of the corruption in the county. The feds are closing in, and Quinn may be off duty but that doesn’t mean he won’t get involved. Stagg is going to be desperate, and dangerous.
One of my main complaints about this series is that important stuff, like Quinn being voted out, often happens between stories. The stuff that happens in this story is important, what with Stagg being on the ropes and all, but that doesn’t mean that an interesting and important story couldn’t be set around the election, either. Anyway, the increasingly desperate robbery (originally it was a conspiracy between two friends upset at the mill owner; then they have to call in a professional to crack the safe; the pro brings his apprentice; then it turns out they can’t crack the safe; then a deputy sheriff shows up–it just goes on and on with increasing frustration, complicated by basic stupidity) has a nice southern gothic feel to it and several issues in the series are at long last resolved. If, for some reason, you wanted out, the end of this volume would make a good jumping-off point. Me, I’ma hang around Tibbehah a while.
Highly recommended. However, I do not recommend starting the series here. While you should be able to follow most of what happens, I believe you will lack important context that is best supplied by starting from The Ranger.