The Deathsniffer’s Assistant
By: Kate McIntyre
Rating: 4 Stars
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…
I received this ARC from Netgalley. What follows is my honest opinion.
I requested this on a whim. I’ve never heard of the author before, but the concept sounded intriguing and I loved the cover (by this point I have no shame in admitting that I definitely judge books by their covers).
I’m so glad I did. It was such fun to read. Yes, there are undoubtedly issues, I felt a bit lost in the world-building at points and I was often fighting the urge to slap some sense into Chris, but the mystery was wonderful and kept me guessing to the end. There’s a definite detective/chronicler vibe that’s reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson but it certainly isn’t just a copy of the original format. I loved Olivia in all her prickly, harsh glory and I enjoyed watching Chris begin to develop a spine as he learnt to live in a world he had avoided for so long.
I think perhaps some people might find the two main characters unsympathetic, but I really enjoyed them. McIntyre somehow manages to strike that very delicate balance between unpleasant and redeemable. She writes people who still have a long way to go before they’re going to win any decency awards, but who you can still feel for and who are clearly trying their best with what they’ve got. Olivia is unashamed of her cold, unfeeling demeanour if at the end of the day it means she solves the mystery and gets justice. Chris is a poor little rich boy at the beginning of the novel and incredibly insular after withdrawing from the world, but a great pleasure of this book is watching him get a clue and begin to grow up.
The characters also have understandable motivations. For instance, Chris’ once rich family have fallen on hard times in the wake of his parents death in a national disaster five years ago. Chris and his younger – uniquely talented – sister Rosemary have been living under the radar until Rosemary comes of age and is able to protect herself. The book is a little vague here as to what she’s actually being protected from.
There are definitely some holes in the world-building. I’m a big fan of dropping a reader in the middle of things and letting them work the world out as they go but it felt like I was missing a few necessary clues – especially about the magic system and the opposing political factions. I think this could be very easily cleared up by the second book with a few strategically placed hints.
I would definite pick up a sequel, the end sets us up nicely for the story to progress and I really want to see where it’s going!