Dragon Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Cliff's End is a city state ruled by Lord Albin and Lady Meerka who have a rather progressive Castle Guard as in their guard spend less time actually guarding the castle and more dealing with the day to day major and minor crimes of the city which are many and varied as the city is home to humans, elves, gnomes, dwarves and many other species. Within the castle guard are the six Detectives who "police" the city which is subdivided mainly along economic lines into precincts named Gryphon (The Castle), Unicorn (High End Residential), Dragon (Mid Range, Commerce), Goblin (Lower End, Markets) and Mermaid (Docks). At the Dog and Duck tavern a bunch of Heroes take rooms intent on a new quest as they believe their long dead nemesis an evil wizard named Chalmraik has resurrected, mighty where their deeds so when one turns up the next day very much dead there is much consternation. When a second is killed political pressure begins to mount on Lieutenants Danthres Tresyllione and Torin ban Wyvald who are getting little help from the survivors of the questing party, the residents of the city or the Brotherhood of Wizards who categorically state that Chalmraik is dead and has very much not resurrected, they would know if such powerful magics had been used but the crime scene indicates magic was probably the cause of the death even when the Guards ME (Magical Examiner) can not detect its use but the Brotherhood are sure, Chalmraik is dead, definitely, positively, dead.
Dragon Precinct paints a wonderful picture of Cliff's End and the society that makes the city come alive, of course the basic structure is crime procedural and the narrative style has been well established but makes itself very amenable to a fantasy setting with one or two tweaks. I love the idea that the ME uses magic to "peel back" a locale which can offer up clues and other information which in our world would be done with prints, DNA and sourcing security cams etc. The Guards themselves are an eclectic mixture of working men and women with a variety of traits from the professional and detached to the driven and of course one or two just working out the last few years until retirement and a pension. The crime and associated mystery is entertaining and you are not really expected to become an amateur sleuth to get the most out of it, the events are set out and the players come and go as the story unfolds leading to a satisfying resolution.
A very strong start to an ongoing series of novels from Keith.
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