Overall Score: 9/10
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Steampunk
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Release Date: July 13, 2015
Source: Amazon Unlimited
Book Summary (From GoodReads)
The Deathsniffer’s Assistant is a fantasy novel with a unique pseudo-Edwardian setting and a murder mystery twist. What’s not to love about floating castles, eccentric lady detectives, and a protagonist who judges everyone by the quality of their shoes!
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. They have been living on the savings that his once-wealthy family left behind. 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 O. Faraday, the manic Deathsniffer. Faraday’s special magical gift is a heightened intuition which is invaluable in hunting down murderers.
When a Duchess calls on Olivia to solve the mystery of her dead husband, Chris finds himself tangled in Faraday’s daily life and unable to extract himself from the macabre questions of the investigation. His involvement grows more complicated as political forces close around Rosemary. They only see 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.
Warnings: This is a murder mystery series and some parts are graphic.
This novel begins with Christopher Buckley, the young, orphaned head of the once-great Buckly family, looking for a job in order to support his younger sister Rosemary. The world this story takes place in in a pseudo-Edwardian England with a strictly structured magical caste system. The world-building was fantastic, it never felt overwhelming or as if crucial aspects were missing. Rather, it was integrated seamlessly into the novel. The types of magic were well explained, from Rosemary’s binding power to Olivia’s death sniffing (a speciality open to truth sniffers). Depending on your categorization, only certain jobs are available to you, which is how Chris Buckley finds himself seeking employment with O. Faraday.
When I first started reading, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. All of that changed as soon as we met Olivia Faraday. She is mercurial, incredibly intelligent, and the best detective around (imagine a female Sherlock Holmes). She is also a death sniffer, a sub class of truth sniffer. She investigates murders and goes after the truth like a bloodhound. Her methods are highly unconventional yet effective. As she goes through the case, Chris observes and records all of her observations, the scenes, the characters, and her guesses.
Having access to all of the same information the detective has means that this is the best type of murder mystery, one where the reader can follow along with the investigation and test their wits against the detective. Even given that, I was still surprised when the murderer was revealed. However, I realized that there had been little clues available to the reader, I just had not been astute enough to connect the dots. While the central investigation ultimately drives the plot, the secondary plots are equally as interesting.
One of the secondary plots is centered on Rosemary, Chris’ younger sister and ward. She is an incredibly powerful binder of elementals and manifested naturally, which makes her incredibly valuable to certain political parties. Chris has spent the last six years attempting to conceal her ability and protect her. However, Rosemary is somewhat of a brat (which is understandable given that she is a young teenager). Her secret is revealed first to her new nanny and then to the world. I’m not entirely sure where her story will go next but it was interesting to see the competing political parties and learn more about the current state of the world.
The other secondary plot emerged toward the end of the novel and set the stage for some potentially very interesting revelations in the second book. The only thing that would have made this book better is a classification of the various types of magic, perhaps in a table at the beginning or end, and a little more world-building since some of the politics left me slightly confused.
Overall, this was a highly enjoyable book. While the main mystery was solved, there was enough left unsolved that I cannot wait to delve into the second book.