After losing his parents in the Floating Castle Incident, the sensitive and mannered Chris Buckley has spent six years raising his magically talented little sister, Rosemary, on the savings that his once-wealthy family left behind. But that money is drying up, and Chris finds himself with no choice but to seek out work in Darrington City as it spirals into a depression. The only employer willing to consider his empty résumé is Olivia Faraday, the manic Deathsniffer. Olivia’s special magical gift gives her a heightened intuition which makes her invaluable in hunting down murderers.
When a Duchess of the mysterious Old Blooded Nobility calls on Olivia to solve the mystery of her dead husband, Chris finds himself tangled in Olivia Faraday’s daily life and unable to extract himself from the macabre questions of the investigation. His involvement grows more complicated as political forces in Darrington close around Rosemary, seeing her as a tool that can be used to end the depression at the cost of her freedom—or even her life. Chris must juggle the question of who killed Viktor val Daren with the responsibility of keeping Rosemary and her magic safe from those who would use her up and toss her aside. Worst of all, he begins to learn that the national disaster that took his parents’ lives may not have been the accident it seemed.
Set in a world very similar to 1900s London, The Deathsniffer’s Assistant combines the investigative murder mystery with a tale of personal and societal redemption. It is about the relationships between broken people who clash more often than not, but manage to shape and learn from one another in spite of this. The story is told from the perspective of Christopher Buckley, young and impressionable and influenced by the prejudices of his time, as he finds himself surrounded by a cast of exceptional women whose differing characters will slowly reconstruct his understanding of strength in others—and in himself.
This is another book that I received from NetGalley, published by Curiosity Quills Press. I admit, I was intrigued by the title of the book and the whole reason I requested it was so I could figure out what a “Deathsniffer” was. I found out in short order what that ominous title meant and how it fit into the scope of the story.
The story itself was a complex and gruesome murder mystery layered in with Christopher Buckley’s personal troubles. You see, Mr. Buckley is the guardian of his younger sister Rosemary, who happens to be a powerful spiritbinder. Spiritbinders (or wizards) are a hot commodity because the foundations of society depend upon them to keep functioning (lighting, plumbing, infrastructure) and binding wizards are becoming extremely rare. Christopher is having a really difficult time because he’s broke and Rosemary keeps getting into situations where her rare power is shown to the public. In order to keep them financially afloat, he takes a job as an assistant to the Deathsniffer, Olivia Faraday who is just a little crazy, but also really good at finding murderers. Ms. Faraday gets put on a dreadful case involving a noble family that just keeps getting more and more horrific and complicated as the story goes along. Her bright, eccentric personality and tenacity made Olivia Faraday my favorite out of all the characters.
The crime solving part of the book was my favorite part because it was incredibly well done. I had guesses about who committed the crime and their motives behind it, but at the beginning I was very wrong. About halfway through I had another hunch, and in the end I was right about it but I was very surprised about the motive and the exact method of the crime. I was happy to have placed my suspicions correctly, but it was really awesome to have been unaware of so many other factors and have that big surprise at the end.
The society and the politics of the story world were both dynamic and magical. The spirits that power so much of the cities were reminiscent of the furies in Jim Butcher’s Codex of Alera series. The elemental aspect was a clear parallel, but in most other respects they were vastly different. The society was clearly written in a way that suggested great changed were in the making and the two political factions were creating upheaval. At first, I thought that the politics was unnecessary and used for filler, but as the plot progressed, it became apparent that it was actually there for a reason.
All in all, the Deathsniffer’s Assistant was a fun and different read that kept me guessing throughout. I would love to see fan art of the characters and the elementals because they were written beautifully and deserve to be made into art.