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Aoife

Witty Little Knitter

I read fantasy, crime, true crime, lgbt-romance and books written by my favourite comedians. List not necessarily complete.
Sometimes I write for Bibliodaze

Currently reading

Stephen and Matilda
Jim Bradbury
Progress: 52/262 pages
Krieg und Frieden
Michael Grusemann, Leo Tolstoy
Progress: 579/1024 pages

DNF-Review: Vermisst

Vermisst: Avi Avraham ermittelt - Dror Mishani, D.A. Mishani, Markus Lemke

Original Title: תיק נעדר

English Title:  The Missing File

 

Detective Avraham Avraham must find a teenage boy who has vanished from his quiet suburban neighborhood.

Police detective Avraham Avraham knows that when a crime is committed in his sleepy suburb of Tel Aviv, there is little need for a complex investigation. There are no serial killers or kidnappings here. The perpetrator is usually the neighbor, the uncle, or the father. As he has learned, the simplest explanation is always the answer.

But his theory is challenged when a sixteen-year-old boy named Ofer Sharabi disappears without a trace while on his way to school one morning. There is no simple explanation, and Avraham's ordered world is consumed by the unimaginable perplexity of the case.

The more he finds out about the boy and his circumstances, the further out of reach the truth seems to be. Avraham's best lead is Ofer's older neighbor and tutor, Ze'ev Avni. Avni has information that sheds new light on the case—and makes him a likely suspect. But will the neighbor's strange story save the investigation?

 

(I listened to the German audiobook)

 

The book opens with a worried mother coming to Avraham because her son went missing. He calms her down by telling her that in Israel there are no crime novels like those of Agatha Christie because there are no really complicated crimes. Israel has no serial killers or rapists. If a crime was committed it was usually a relative or a neighbor, but more often there's no crime at all and her son will probably be back soon.

 

Let me go through all the things wrong with this statement.

 

One: There are no crime novels in Israel.

 

How about Batya Gur? Shulamit Lapid? Uri Adelman? All prize-winning authors but nope. There are totally no Israeli crime novels. The author knows this because that one time he passed through the crime section of the bookstore, thinking about how much he hates the genre, he didn't notice any.

 

Two: You go for 'serial killers and rapists' and then use Agatha Christie as an example? 

 

Like...have you even read the Wikipedia article on her (or crime novels in general)? Or did you once watch an episode of Law & Order, concluded that crime-fiction in any form/medium is shit and you can do better? If you wanted to go for the 'dark and gritty realism' direction you could, at least, have said Henning Mankell. Believe me, people will have heard of him. Not only crime-readers. (Of course I rather re-read The White Lioness which for me is the shittiest Mankell-novel than touch another book by Mishani with a ten foot pole...but that's another issue).

 

 

Three: It usually was a relative or a neighbor. Everywhere. Israel is not the special snowflake.  Murders are mostly committed for stupid reasons by...not very bright people who are then caught quickly. If the crime literature of any country would accurately represent the actual crimes committed in this country we had fewer books about murderers who left rare jazz recordings in their victim's CD players and more short-stories in which the police just followed the bloody footsteps at the crime scene and then knocked at the door of the house they led to.

However, crime literature would be a lot less interesting then, so get off your high horse.

 

That was the first chapter. I should have just quit then because it did not get better. It always felt like I'm reading a crime novel by an author who really hates crime novels. At one point Avraham explains that his hobby is reading crime novels/watching crime dramas and explaining how wrong the investigator in it is. Not in the 'you would have to face consequences after using your service weapon like this' or the 'you're ruining the crime scene' way (which is something some other fictional detectives do occasionally and which is honestly also bloody annoying). No, he thinks most of the time detectives from books and TV arrest the wrong person because...because they are stupid and Avraham's shining intelligence eclipses them all? Because reasons? Whatever.

 

Yeah. Way to shit on an entire genre. Well done.

 

Avraham's shining intelligence btw makes him convinced that he just has to ask the boy's mother the right question (he doesn't know yet) and then she will give him an answer and everything will be immediately totally clear to him.

That is how real police work works. No this is not a trope only found in shitty crime fiction. We are above this despicable genre, don't you know?

 

Also Avraham barely does any investigating. He mostly sulks that his colleagues, who do actually do some work find out things. Like the fact that the missing boy's sister has Down Syndrome and then he wonders why the parents always talked about her like she was 'a normal child'. I kid you not.

 

DNF at ~60%

 

 

 

Review: Jefferson Blythe, Esquire

Jefferson Blythe, Esquire - Josh Lanyon

After his first relationship goes disastrously awry, Jeff Blythe uses his savings to tour Europe—the old-fashioned way. Armed with his grandfather's 1960 copy of Esquire's Europe in Style, Jeff sets off looking for adventure but finds much, much more than he bargained for...

In London, dodging questions from shady criminals about a mysterious package he most certainly does not have is simple. Losing the gunmen who are convinced he's someone else is not. And when George, an old friend, offers him help—and a place to stay, and perhaps something more—things become complicated.

Is George really who he seems? And is Jeff finally ready to act on his attraction?

From Paris to Rome and back again, Jeff and George fall for each other, hard, while quite literally running for their lives. But trusting George at his word may leave Jeff vulnerable—in more ways than one.

 

 

I love cozy crime novels. I am aware that it's not the genre with the most amount of realism. Most of the amateur sleuths would end up arrested or getting killed if they did the things cozy heroes/heroines did. But I don't really care because cozies are fun. Still my suspension of disbelief is only going to stretch so far. Amateur sleuth solving a case in which somebody killed his relative to inherit/business partner to not share the profits/anything else small scale? Yeah.
Amateur sleuth getting involved with the Russian mafia?

 

This just does not work. He would have been dead after five minutes...or considering Jefferson has a severe case of too stupid to live perhaps more five seconds.

Because considering he knows that there are people out there who want to kill him, he spends an awful amount of time wandering lonely streets (not paying attention to his surroundings because he is contemplating the nature of existence or something), opening doors without checking who is behind them and refusing to take the chance of putting an entire ocean between himself and the people who are after him.

Yeah. All this happens while he's doing a trip through Europe but even after he got kidnapped, watched somebody get shot, got nearly killed himself and had a close encounter with a mafia boss he doesn't want to go back to the States.

He's on a journey of self-discovery, you know. And that is important...and I guess discovering you're dead is a kind of self-discovery as well.

 

 

Oh and also George. He can't leave because George is in London. Which is another problem I have with this book.

I usually enjoyed Lanyon's crime-plots but even if I wasn't that overwhelmed, the characters made up for that.

Here. Not so much.

The chemistry between George and Jeff is non-existent.

(much more convincing than the thought of Jeff and George being happy together)

 

Their backstory is that George once confessed his feelings for Jeff to him, but Jeff wasn't willing to admit to his feelings so he said some very hurtful things, George moved to a different continent and they didn't talk for four years. Now they meet again and we are told that they again/still have feelings for each other but I didn't see it. All I saw was Jeff constantly ignoring George's requests to drop a topic/leave him alone and George apparently not knowing Jeff at all and acting like he knows better than Jeff what he wants.

(I do get his 'You have only just accepted to yourself that you're gay, you should not immediately jump into a relationship'-argument but they also have a conversation that - paraphrased - goes like this: 'Now that you're out you should screw around a bit.' - 'I have no interest in screwing around. I had no interest in screwing around when I still tried to tell myself I was straight. This has not changed.' - 'Go screw around. I did it and

therefore you must want it as well for my experience is valid for everybody and I know everything better.')

All I got from them was two people who might still have feelings for a memory of somebody that they were projecting on the actual somebody, but that person had already changed so much in the meantime that they were very different from that memory.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 60%.

Jane Steele  - Lyndsay Faye

I love this a lot. I want to quote just about every other sentence because they are so hilarious/beautiful/both.

 

But: Jane keeps referring to all the murders she committed when from today's point of view only one would be considered one. The other were manslaughter, accidents or even self-defence. Now the law in Victorian times was obviously harsher and they might not have distinguished that much (and anyway, the one no-discussions-murder would have sealed her fate anyway) but I would still expect her to think about that and e.g. go 'I did not mean to kill him. He attacked me, I defended myself.' She might still come to the conclusion that it doesn't make a difference because different morality in the old times or whatever but I still sort of expect her to at least ask that question.

There's even a witness to the very clear-cut self-defense and she refers to it as 'murder' in his presence but he never points out 'yeah...well if you hadn't done this we would probably all be dead now'. That's just a bit odd.

Review: The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century - Sarah Miller

Here’s middle-grade nonfiction that reads like a thriller. With murder, court battles, and sensational newspaper headlines, the story of Lizzie Borden is compulsively readable and perfect for the Common Core.

Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.

In a compelling, linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4, 1892, murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. Most of what is known about Lizzie’s arrest and subsequent trial (and acquittal) comes from sensationalized newspaper reports; as Miller sorts fact from fiction, and as a legal battle gets under way, a gripping portrait of a woman and a town emerges.

With inserts featuring period photos and newspaper clippings—and, yes, images from the murder scene—readers will devour this nonfiction book that reads like fiction.

 

First: In case the blurb did not make it completely clear: this book is about the trial. Of course, the first chapters are about the murder, the events leading up to it and how it was discovered etc. but  the majority deals with the court proceedings. It also does not try to convince the reader that Lizzie Borden or anybody else is guilty. It just gives you the bare facts. And it does that quite well. Occasionally I had problems keeping up with the many names but I always have problems with that (and I was in a reading-slump, which meant that I took quite long breaks in between reading which also can't have helped). So it did give me a good overview over the bare facts. 

 

However: It did not read like a thriller...or any kind of fiction. I mean trials in real life, even spectacular ones like Lizzie Borden's, usually aren't as exciting as those on TV. A lot of it is, in fact, a bit dull. Now I'm not blaming the author for not spicing things up but I do feel that the advertising blurb makes a lot of promises the book doesn't keep. I also don't feel like a read 'a gripping portrait of a woman and town'. I read a book about Lizzie Borden's trial. It did, indeed, inform me about it but nothing more.

 

If you have a specific interest in this case, this book is certainly a good investment. It does state the facts clearly and the author does not have an agenda. As said she neither tries to convince you of Lizzie's guilt nor her innocence. If you're more into true crime non-fiction in general, you can probably give it a pass (unless you're very much into the legal bits/court proceedings and such).

 

ARC provided by NetGalley

Review: Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel - Jeffrey Cranor, Joseph Fink

The good news: this book captures the spirit of the podcast very well. And while Cecil's voice is a major factor in my love for the show I didn't miss it that much. I think it helped that it isn't simply a radio-show that's written down but features different characters and just has some short interlude chapters in which Cecil hosts. (And despite that there's still enough of Cecil, Carlos and all the other regulars).

The bad news: For me Night Vale works a lot better in 30-minute podcast segments. Reading a book, that's set in a world, where the rules of logic don't apply at all, is just very frustrating. I enjoy listening to the utter craziness that is Night Vale but if I read about people who are trying to get to a place but can't because things are incredibly weird, and then in the end manage after all because they do something utterly weird...I almost feel cheated. Like an author has written himself in a corner and then pulls something random out of his hat to solve the problem.

Except of course the rules of Night Vale are, that there are no rules and podcast-episodes got resolved into similarly weird manners so it's not bad writing. Still it just didn't work for me. I think it might have been the length more than the fact that it was a different medium. A collection of short stories might have worked better for me than a long one where one weirdness gets piled onto another.

 

ARC received by NetGalley.

 

Review: Murder in Whitechapel

The Judas Reflections: Murder In Whitechapel - Aiden James, Michelle Wright

Emmanuel Ortiz holds an ancient and dark secret...
His real name is Judas Iscariot.
Forced to walk the earth as a cursed immortal, Judas' disguise as Emmanuel does little to ease his eternal loneliness. Having recovered nine of his thirty blood coins, his focus is not yet on redemption for his treacherous role in the betrayal of Jesus Christ.

Distractions come easily for the rich entrepreneur and sometimes sleuth who presently resides in England, 1888. Fascinated by the spate of murders in London's poverty stricken Whitechapel, Emmanuel soon realizes the killings resemble others he is familiar with, and the bloody signature of killing and taunts speaks to the unholy talents of yet another immortal...an enemy from long ago.

This knowledge fuels his determination to track and apprehend the infamous Jack the Ripper at any cost.

With the backdrop of a Victorian Society, rigid and moralistic, along with the plight of those less fortunate, Emmanuel seeks to align himself with Scotland Yard. With the help of his immortal pal, Roderick Cooley, and by pretending to be an American private investigator interested in the horrific prostitute killings, he sets out to stop the senseless bloodshed. But, has he bitten off more than he can chew, by immersing himself in the slums and disease of the Ripper's hunting grounds?

As the mystery unfolds it becomes the ultimate test...not only of his abilities as an immortal, but also of his very soul.

 

This book has an amazing premise with an execution that is...lacking. The book is just all over the place.

Judas thinks once he found the 30 silver coins his immortality will end and he will age normally. Judas tells a friend that a major injury might still kill him. Judas suddenly knows that a beheading will certainly kill him. 

It makes sense that immortality doesn't come with a manual, but that was just odd. A clear explanation of what he knows for sure and what he suspects would have been nice (that would have been an occasion where I hadn't minded a bit of infodumping...the author clearly isn't averse to it since he also told us the life-story of several completely irrelevant characters).

 

There is some good stuff as well: Judas has a fellow immortal friend who had the misfortune of not looking like a healthy, middle-aged men. He has to disguise his paleness and his eyes constantly, but still sticks out so much that he's met with some suspicion. That's just a nice detail that isn't included in many stories about immortality (even nicer would have been if the main character would have had to deal with that problem...)

 

But the rest...Judas feels like a failed try at an unreliable narrator. He says he cares und is looking for redemption but then imports opium and sells it to illegal opium dens (he also imports "cotton, gold, diamonds, tea, spices" no where did that come from?

 

he does change his opinion on the opium but not a word about the other stuff). 

There was a weird jumping back and forth between extremes going on. He can't do anything for the people in the East End. He throws money at them. Child labour sucks but happens. He feels bad about getting others in trouble. He thinks it's mostly their fault anyway...it felt like reading the First Person narration of about five different people. And not only when it come to his (lack of) guilt: the first time they get an incredibly vague description of a guy who might be the Ripper Judas immediately thinks that this sounds like a fellow immortal whom he knows to be violent and who hates woman. And then he suddenly doesn't even consider other possibilities. No, it just has to be him...later he gets a second description, that also matches and then he thinks 'Previously I had doubts but now I was sure it had to be him.' You had doubts? When?

Also he talks a lot about how this immortal is much stronger than him and he could never beat him in a fight (except a duel. Perhaps...oh ffs I'm tired of listing all the contradictions in this book). But he never explains why. It doesn't seem to be a simple case of 'he's a better fighter'. Somehow Judas considers him totally out of his league because...because...whatever

 

It might have made some sense if he'd been an older immortal, but he's almost 1000 years younger than Judas so what makes him so special? No idea.

 

I understand that the beginning of a series needs to leave some questions open but there were too many things that just did not make sense at all.

 

Which is sad because the bits that dealt with Judas's guilt over betraying Jesus were actually done really well (AND CONSISTENT) and showed glimpses of how this could have been a really good book but alas...

 

Review Copy provided by the Curiosity Quill Press.

 

Review: Lessons in Desire

Lessons in Desire - Charlie Cochrane

With the recent series of college murders behind him, Cambridge Fellow Jonty Stewart is in desperate need of a break. A holiday on the beautiful Channel Island of Jersey seems ideal, if only he can persuade Orlando Coppersmith to leave the security of the college and come with him. Orlando is a quiet man who prefers academic life to venturing out into the world. Within the confines of their rooms at the university, it's easy to hide the fact that he and Jonty are far more than friends. But the desire to spend more time alone with the man he loves is an impossible lure to resist. When a brutal murder occurs at the hotel where they're staying, the two young men are once more drawn into the investigation. The race to catch the killer gets complicated by the victim's son, Ainslie, a man who seems to find Orlando too attractive to resist. Can Stewart and Coppersmith keep Ainslie at bay, keep their affair clandestine, and solve the crime?

 

(That blurb is btw so not what happens in the book but whatever)

 

This was...nice. Not bad but not great either. The mystery was OK, but one throwaway line made it really easy to figure out parts of it. There was still enough to keep me guessing.

I didn't get at all why it was necessary to have parts of the story told from Mathew's point of view. I'm pretty sure that all the other books from the series, I've read so far, were just written from Orlando's and Jonty's POV and I really don't understand why it was changed here. It added nothing and they were honestly done rather sloppily mid-chapter.

 

There is a rather widespread trope on cozies that is 'the police have somebody as their main suspect and the amateur sleuths just refuse to believe that this person did it' and I honestly don't think it was executed that well here. I can buy this if the suspect is somebody the main characters have known for a long time but here they only just met him but still Jonty never wavers in his conviction that Mathew didn't do it. Even Orland isn't convinced, but Jonty ignores that. 

I also found Jonty's behaviour questionable in regards to their relationship in general. It was like he was willing to accept that Orlando needed time to get over his past traumas, but Jonty would decide how much time that was. He was pressing him to talk about things at several occasions, including one time that felt more like emotional blackmail. That was even worse because the question he asked then was 'Why did your father kill himself' which really is just morbid curiosity on his part. I get why making Orlando talk about his childhood in general would be helpful, but that? Not so much.

(Also: his 'only penetrative sex is real sex'-views? Ugh)

 

Reading progress update: I've read 60 out of 721 pages.

Die Bartholomäusnacht - Alexandre Dumas

This German translation just gave us the word Kotzbombenelement. I am not sure what that's supposed to mean.

Free Books!

Spanish Serenade - Jennifer Blake The Court Of The Thorn Tree - Jennifer Blake, Patricia Maxwell Southern Rapture - Jennifer Blake Embrace and Conquer - Jennifer Blake Fierce Eden - Jennifer Blake Queen For A Night - Jennifer Blake Snowbound Heart - Jennifer Blake Captive Kisses - Maxine Patrick, Jennifer Blake Sweet Piracy - Jennifer Blake, Patricia Maxwell Arrow to the Heart - Jennifer Blake

Jennifer Blake has put 13 of her books up for free on amazon till October 4th. I don't know any of her work but have been informed that she writes bodice-rippers, a genre I have always been curious about (perhaps a bit morbidly curious ^^). Perhaps somebody else here as well.

Review: The Shepherd's Crown

The Shepherd's Crown (Tiffany Aching) - Terry Pratchett

 

But otherwise I'm fine.

 

This book has great scenes and themes in a...not so great plot. Or perhaps rather in a plot, that still would have needed some more polishing. Especially the climax felt like it was going a bit too smoothly. It was over before I could really start worrying about the characters involved in it. But then you had to expect this...

And, as said, the themes are great. I even found that after the morals had been conveyed rather anviliciously in some of the previous books this time it was done not as heavy-handedly and even had not all problems magically disappear because a character looked disapprovingly at the bad guys long enough (the bugged me in Wintersmith and Snuff a bit).

So it still is a good book but under different circumstances I'd probably be harsher with the rating.

See you soon

Tomorrow I'm off to Prague for a few days. I intend to enjoy the beautiful city (and refuse any allegations that a huge reason for picking Prague over other places was that Des Teufels Maskerade, one of my favourite books, is set there and I want to see some of the places mentioned there ^^)

Perhaps for once I won't return with a suitcase full of books since this time most should be in a language I don't understand well enough to read. 

 

See you all again on Monday!

DNF Review: Empress of hearts

The Empress of Hearts - E. Barrington

DNF around 50%

It's just boring. It's hard to believe that it's possible to make the diamond necklace affair boring, but this author manages it. The book opens with two characters having a conversation about things they both know already, but discuss again for the reader's benefit. Then very little plot happens, then massive amounts of info dump (this time not even with as-you-know conversations, just plain 'let me tell you about all the things you need to know to understand this book which I couldn't be bothered to include in a more subtle way'), a bit more plot, a lot more info dump.
Halfway through the book Marie Antoinette has refused the necklace and Jeanne has persuaded Rohan to buy it and that's it. The rest was the author letting us know what she knows and people talking. To be fair some of that was about the current situation in France and the author trying to make the connection between that, the affair and the upcoming revolution but when it's presented in a way that makes me skip whole pages because the writing is so dull that really doesn't help.


And it's somewhat annoying that the author doesn't seem to like any of the characters...

(Fyi: this is a re-release of a book from the 20s, something that isn't exactly advertised and also nothing you'd suspect after looking at that 'oh my anachronistic dress histo-romance'-cover - that's not the one in the BL-database but this one).

 

ARC received from NetGalley.

Reading progress update: I've read 20%.

The Empress of Hearts - E. Barrington

I picked that up without realizing that it's a re-release of a book from the 1920s so I was thrown off by the casual antisemitism in the description of a character...

Apart from that the book is als very very wordy and full of infodumps and people having 'as you know'-conversations.

Bookish Q &A

 

Found here

 

  1. What is your favorite childhood book?

 

Good question. I was big into all sorts of teen detectives. It started with Famous Fiveand sort of spiraled from there, but there was never one book out of those I loved more than the other.

However, I still own this and occasionally leaf through it for nostalgic reasons:

 

I actually just had to google Leonie Löwenherz because all I remember is that she was a character from a TV-show. I now know that she was on the German version of Sesame Street and eventually got a spin off that was a bit like Alf.

I do not remember any of this. I don't even think I watched the series regularly. But I really liked this book which gave you information about animals in a child-friendly yet not condescending way.

 

 

  1. E-books or printed books?

 

I couldn't life without my e-reader anymore, but I am still at a point where I need some books as physical copy.

 

  1. What is your favorite place to read?

My bed or the living-room

 

 

  1. Is there any genre you would never read?

Horror. I'm a whimp.

 

  1. What’s your review rating system?

 

5 Stars = incoherent flailing

4.5/4 Stars = coherent flailing with a but

3.5/3 Stars = Not bad. If first in a series I might still pick up the next installment but if that isn't better I'll probably drop it

2.5 Stars = If somebody I know well enough swears on his grandmother's grave that the series picks up after that book I might consider giving it a try

2/1.5 Stars = I felt bored and/or vaguely offended (I don't think I give 1.5 often tbh)

1 Star = I felt very bored or more likely very offended (or both)

 

 

  1. What is your favorite fictional character?

 

And Peter Grant.

And Angua von Überwald.

And Mara Lorbeer.

And Dejan Sirco.

And Samweis Gamdschie.

And Bob Andrews.

 

Oh...we were supposed to pick one?

 

  1. What was the best film adaption of a book?

 

I really loved the adaption of Mara und der Feuerbringer as I will never ever tire of telling anybody who wants to listen (or...well also those who don't want to listen). I also enjoyed the first episodes of the Inspector Lynley mysteries, especially considering the length of the books.

 

 

  1. How do you chose the next book to read?

 

Whatever strikes my fancy. If my review-copies are starting to pile up I will pick one of those.

 

  1. Top 3 authors?

 

You saw how that one favourite character went? This would probably go the same way.

 

  1. Is there any book release you are particularly looking forward to?

 

Reading progress update: I've read 45 out of 288 pages.

The Shepherd's Crown (Tiffany Aching) - Terry Pratchett

 

 

 

Review: The Deathsniffer's Assistant

The Deathsniffer's Assistant - Kate McIntyre

This Review also appears on Bibliodaze

 

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.

 


 

In the world of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant everybody is categorized once they’re 19. That means their magical powers get awakened. These powers can appear in a wide variety of forms: Lifeknitters can find injuries and know what they have to do to heal them. Truthsniffers know when they’re being lied to. Worldcatchers are skilled painters. Heartreaders can read other people’s emotions…

It’s logical logical, yet also has creepy dystopian touch that your category (and how strong your power is) limits what you can work as. Lifeknitters always end up in hospitals, the stronger ones as doctor, the weaker as nurses. Truthsniffers mostly end up working for the police. Either directly as cop or indirectly as a type of private detective (though they still have to answer to the real cops because of reasons. The worldbuilding is overall well done but does leave some questions).

Chris, the main character is a Wordweaver. He can make words appear on a page at a high speed. This skill is considered the lowest of all the talents and he has a hard time finding a job that pays enough to feed him and his sister Rosemary after their parents died. Rosemary is a twice special child.

First she is a wizard. That means her magical powers don’t need to be awakened. At a young age she’s already a Spiritbinder – she can control the spirits and magical creatures that used in this world to power machines, create light and much more. Second she’s an incredibly powerful Spiritbinder who has powers greater than most trained adults.

If those powers ever came to public knowledge it would mean that two rivalling political fractions (the ‘our magical system needs to be reformed’-one and the ‘everything is fine as it is’-one) would be very interested in using her for their aims. So Chris has to do everything to keep others from finding out about Rosemary’s powers. (Something that’s hard considering Rosemary is bloody stupid).

The only job Chris can find that pays enough is as the assistant of Olivia Faraday, a Deathsniffer. That’s just a fancy term for one of the semi-freelance Truthsniffers who have specialised in solving murders.

 

So this is basically a whodunit set in a fantasy-world. This is a genre-crossover I always wanted but never found. I should be jumping up and down ecstatically and doing cartwheels. But I’m not and that’s not only because I can’t do proper cartwheels.

The problem is Olivia. The author was clearly going for a Holmes-like character here but missed two important facts. The first is that Holmes – despite what some adaptations of the stories might make you think – was not a complete jerk who was rude all all the time. Yes he could be sometimes and he didn’t care for social norms much but he also could be a caring person. The second is that Holmes could afford to be eccentric and affront Victorian sensibilities now and then because he was the last hope of the people that came to him. They had to put up with him or lose all hope of getting a solution for their problem.

Olivia is not the only Deathsniffer. At no point is it suggested that she has a reputation of solving cases faster than others or being able to solve cases nobody else could. People could just go to somebody else if they are not happy with her. Inexplicably they don’t do that despite that fact that Olivia is one of the most horrible characters I came across in a long time. She doesn’t give a shit about other people’s feeling. She doesn’t only constantly insult the suspects, she’s also horrible to her police-colleagues and to Chris. Chris is the only one who has a reason to suffer through her abuse since he needs the money. But why the police doesn’t simply refuse to work with her and the victim’s relatives never slam the door in her face remains a mystery.

It really is that bad. I hated her. Hated how she was so convinced of a person’s guilt that she refused to treat her with even a minimum amount of basic decency. Hated how she treated the tragic revelations about Chris like amusing anecdotes and how she barely acknowledged that Chris was a human being who has a life outside work.

I honestly don’t care if she is just a horrible person or if there is something more behind her behaviour (it is hinted that perhaps there might be). I simply don’t enjoy reading a book where the main character’s behaviour makes me so furious that I had to put the book down more than once because I could not stomach reading any more about her.

All that is a shame because the author can write and she can write emotions. Because while Chris also annoyed me at first, it soon became clear that he’s trying to deal with much more than he can cope with. At the age of 14 he lost both parents under horrible circumstances. Since then he’s been trying to care for and protect his little sister without much outside help.
About halfway through the book he reminisces about how the death of his parents affected him. It takes him several pages but I almost want to quote every single line because it’s just written so beautiful and heartwrenching. It especially stands out compared to so many of the conveniently-an-orphan protagonists who sometimes stop, think about how their mother used to hug them, cry a single tear and then cheerfully continue on their journey. Chris’ grief is a part of him and one of the reasons that he is how he is. Yes that means that he’s flawed but I can understand his flaws unlike Olivia’s. And they are balanced out by other facets of his character. Unlike Olivia who is just horrible (I mentioned that already didn’t I?)

The other characters are interesting as well and even the minor ones have depth. Sadly the only exceptions is Rosemary. Too often she seems just like a plot-device that is there to cause Chris the most amount of trouble at the worst possible moment. And also when it comes to how much Chris loves her I would have wished for less telling and more showing.

 

The mystery-plot itself is…decent. There were things I was not happy about. One character made the police’s life difficult for no other reason than to fill pages. A vital bit of information about the world was withheld so there was no way for the reader to guess along. And the solution made me not very happy for some spoilery reasons. But those were only minor issues. If those were the only gripes I’d had with this book I still would have picked up the next book in the series because the world is fascinating. It is also hinted at that there was more behind the death of Chris’ parents and that there is a connection with the magical politics. All this would interest me and I would love to learn more about it…but that also means meeting Olivia again and this is something I am reluctant to do.

The bottom line is that I have rarely been so torn about a book. Usually I love some things in a book and am indifferent about others or I hate some and am indifferent about others. Here I love one character, like the worldbuilding and hate another character. As she is one of the main-characters it is hard to ignore that and just say that the rest was much better.