Sometimes, we just all need a sweet, sleeping kitten to get us through the day. Look at those precious toe beans, the wispy fur, the utter contentment on that kitten face. That teeny tiny little belly!
To go with this sweet angel is Magic and the Shinigami Detective by Honor Raconteur. Honor has kindly offered a sample of her book for your reading pleasure, so if this looks up your alley, keep scrolling! I will say, this cover is quite different, and I like that. Delightfully steampunky, a tap busy in intriguing ways, and includes sweeeet colors. I likey, I likey.
When the Night Foxes boldly break into the Fourth Precinct’s Evidence Building, it causes quite the stir. The break-in is daring enough, but their method shreds the magical wards and protections on the building like confetti paper. To say the police are ‘alarmed’ by this is the understatement of the century.
As a Magical Examiner, Henri Davenforth is of course immediately called in. Quite to his astonishment, Captain Gregson has him work the case like a detective. Even more astounding, he assigns Henri a partner. The Shinigami Detective.
The woman is famous for killing the most destructive rogue witch of the century, and no one is quite certain where she’s from. Every officer in the precinct is either in awe of her or a little frightened by her. Henri is just baffled. What is he supposed to do with a partner?
Hopefully killing one witch makes Jamie Edwards enough of an expert on magic to be helpful, as the thieves aren’t content to just break into one building. They in fact seem to have an agenda, as with each theft, they take magical objects. It’s all mounting to a dangerously powerful magical construct capable of toppling the wards on any building.
And no one has any idea what the thieves’ true target is.
From outside came a male voice raised in question, one I recognized. Gerring, wasn’t it? Curious, I turned, wondering if another scene needed my expertise. I only did field work one time out of ten, but occasionally two scenes needed me in the same day. It was a fine time for it, as we were nearing the end of shift, and I had promised myself this morning a lovely steak if I managed to get through today without snapping.
“Doctor Davenforth?” Gerring, as a Svartálfar, did not get out of breath sprinting around. Any of the elven races could run all day if they were inclined to do so. His race were hardy to the extreme in that sense. Still, he looked a little flushed, ears quivering back and forth in agitation, which did not bode good things. He hovered in the doorway, shifting back and forth on his feet, wanting to be in motion once again. “Sir, the Evidence Locker has been broken into.”
For a moment his words made no sense whatsoever. Then they did, and I quickly lunged for my bag, throwing everything back in there with more haste than care. “How? When?”
“Fifteen minutes ago, sir, and we don’t know. It’s a right mess, sir. Wards are in tatters.”
As an elf, he might not be able to work human magic in the same manner, but he could certainly sense it. “Grab that black box and put it in the wagon.”
Both officers helped me pack up and within minutes I was back in the driver’s seat, racing back for Fourth Precinct. Fortunately, at this time of the night, the streets weren’t too crowded and I was able to break the speed limit without concern. I crossed the five blocks back to my work building and pulled around back, where the station’s pool was, next to the Evidence Locker. The horses blew out a relieved breath when I stopped, and I felt remotely guilty of asking them to run while pulling such a heavy load.
Then I caught sight of the Evidence Building and every other thought immediately went out of my head.
‘Tatters’ didn’t do the wards justice.
I ignored the speaker for a moment, taking in the situation even as I stepped fully off the carriage. The Evidence Holding Area sign leaned sideways, hanging by a single nail and a prayer, which more or less illustrated the situation about the building in general. Everything lay in shambles, the shields and barriers in magical shreds, the chaos so intense it was impossible to tell at first glance what had happened. Whatever had destroyed the shields had done such a thorough job that it impacted the building as well, breaking open the front doors, part of the wall, and what appeared to be several of the shelves inside. At least, I assumed the half-decimated crates, boxes, and scattered remains of evidence on the ground were the result of the attack. The Department had spewed forth officers onto the scene for all the good it did them. I saw more people running into each other and wandering around aimlessly than anyone actually doing concrete work.
My first task would be sending at least half of them back to work. This trampling about did nothing more than disturb evidence, blast it. They supposedly were professionals—who was running this circus?
“Davenforth!” the caller said again, more insistently and far closer.
Sighing, I turned, speaking as I did, “Pinkerton, I just arrived on scene, do allow me some time before you prevail—” I cut myself off as I caught sight of the woman following him. Even though I basically lived in my lab, I knew who she had to be.
The Shinigami Detective.
Strange, she didn’t look formidable, not in the overbearing way the rumors painted her in, at least. She didn’t look womanly either, not with that thick black hair, drawn simply and severely back from her face. She stood tall for a woman, eye-level with me, not that it meant much as I was rather short for a man. Her build spoke of speed and strength, and the gun on her hip rode comfortably. I took a moment to really look at her face. She seemed pretty, in her own way, bone structure more sharp angles than the popular round heart-shaped face. I liked most the professionalism in her brown eyes as they took in every facet of the disaster before finally settling on me.
“This is Detective Jamie Edwards,” Pinkerton introduced to me. “Edwards, this is Henri Davenforth, our Magical Examiner.”
I held out a hand and she accepted it without a blink of an eye, her grip sure and firm. “Pleasure, Detective.”
“Nice to meet you, sir.” A nice voice, slightly husky, not one of those shrill sopranos.
“Davenforth,” Pinkerton continued, nearly shifting his feet with the desire to be on the move, “Captain requests that you and Edwards work together on this one. She’s, well, an expert on magical criminals, and this has all the earmarks of a rogue witch breaking inside.”
‘Expert on magical criminals.’ Was that how we were phrasing it now? Thirteen months ago, when this woman first appeared, she did so in a flash of blood and fame by killing the most famous rogue witch in the country. Daresay on the entire continent. I didn’t have all the details, but part of the reason why the Department had fought so hard to bring her into the fold was because of her history with Belladonna. I wasn’t sure killing one insane witch was enough to give her blanket confidence in situations like this, but I was willing to withhold judgment until I saw her in action.
“Certainly. Pinkerton, get the area clear. I can’t work with people tramping madly about.”
“They’re taking inventory of what’s missing—” he began to protest, round face scrunching up into defensive lines.
“They’re making a mess of any trace evidence the criminals left behind,” I cut in firmly, not giving him any wiggle room. “Get them out of here. They can take inventory after I’m done.”
The man wanted to protest, obvious by the way he pulled his black jacket sharply down over his paunch, but he didn’t. Spinning on a heel, he barked out orders to stop and clear the area.
Edwards didn’t say anything, but the set of her mouth and the way she looked at me suggested she approved. “Pinkerton,” she called after him.
The man spun, the set of his mouth rebelliously close to a snarl.
“Can you have a few uniforms canvas the area?” Edwards requested with a sweet smile. “See if there are any witnesses. Someone might have spotted our thieves running madly away from the area.”
Semi-appeased to be more involved, Pinkerton gave her a nod and a tip of the hat. “I’ll get men right on it.”
“Thank you.” She watched him go for a moment, then turned her back to him. From her pocket, she pulled out a pair of white gloves and tugged them on. I watched in bemusement. “You wear gloves on scene?”
“Always. Less chance of me smudging fingerprints and corrupting trace evidence.”
I blinked at her. “Fingerprints?”
From the patient tone of her words, she’d explained this before, at least a hundred times over. “No two individuals have identical fingerprints. Not even identical twins. If you can find fingerprints at the scene, you can match them up with the criminal later, and prove in a court of law that he had been there.”
Fascinating. I’d never heard of the like and had to wonder at the veracity of her words. “Which journal did you acquire this information from?”
She gave me a smile that somehow seemed amused and sad all at once. “I’ll explain it all later, if you don’t mind. Let’s process the scene first.”
That did seem the best option as night fell quickly at this time of year. We had the climbing temperatures of approaching spring, but winter’s influence lingered in short daylight hours and cold nights. Electric lights hadn’t quite made it to this part of the yard yet, leaving only gaslights, and those flickered badly enough to make the eyes play tricks. I wanted to see everything I could before natural light failed me entirely. “Detective, do you have any magical lenses on you?”
“Yes, one. I’ll use it and stay out of your hair, don’t worry.”
At least she was competent enough for that amount of common sense. Daring to hope she wouldn’t blunder into my way later, I waved her on, pulling out my own tools and equipment. Not that I needed much for my initial scan. A journal for recording the findings in, which would become the queen’s evidence later, two tracking crystals to record the scene in its entirety, and several magical evidence boxes that I could store things into and preserve for later examination. I grabbed a charcoal pencil, as well, to mark things with, tucking it behind an ear, then swore when my curly hair pushed it out again. Catching it, I stuck it in again, more firmly. Better.
As I turned from the wagon, I saw the last of the officers leave the area and huffed out a satisfied breath. Two patrolmen remained, setting a perimeter, which I thought sensible. They chose to set it outside of the scene’s area, and I gave them a nod of approval. They wouldn’t hinder me there.
Gathering it all up, I started recording first, as I always did, trying to preserve the scene in as much purity as possible before I touched anything. My black box gave a magical hum as it worked. I do so admire recording boxes as they do an excellent job in taking a ghostly image of the scene, something we could project later for precise examination. I’d had to tweak these models as the projection lens and power supply were subpar, in my opinion, but after modification, they were up to snuff now.
I kept an eye on Edwards as I recorded, but she seemed to realize that I couldn’t have anything disturbed at this point. Indeed, she walked the perimeter of the brick building instead, pacing a little out, then coming back in, studying things at every level, even getting down on her knees at one point.
I now understood why she wore a man’s trousers and coat, if her scrambling about on crime scenes was the norm for her. Certainly the proper female clothing of long skirts and billowy sleeves would hamper her in situations like these. Even if her clothing choice bordered on immodesty, I gave her points for the professionalism.
Coming back to me, she stopped a foot to my left and behind. “Can I talk to you while you work?”
“In this stage, yes.”
“I don’t see any signs of forced entry. No smashed windows, broken locks, or any sign of tampering.”
I turned my head enough to frown at her. “Are you certain?”
“Not through the usual means, at least,” she clarified. In illustration, she held up the half-moon spectacles and waved them a little. “My magic specs are registering a strange energy absolutely everywhere so they’re less than helpful at the moment. I know the front doors are blasted open, but I’m not sure if that’s because they were trying to get in through the wards, or out with their loot. How were the wards set?”
Frowning, I paused for a moment. “The wards are set to keep evidence logged inside, not to bar entrance.”
“So, they could feasibly have gotten in, then had to break out in order to take the loot with them?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“Then help me figure out other possible points of entry.”
True, the run-of-the-mill magic specs issued to the department wouldn’t be of much help here. “Give me a moment. After I’ve finished the recording, I’ll take a comprehensive look at the doors and windows for you.”
“I appreciate it, thank you.”
Silence descended, and normally I’m quite good with silence and would leave it alone. This seemed a rather unique opportunity, however, to get a few clarifications about this strange woman that had joined our department four months ago. She was one of only two female detectives, the other being a fresh-faced young girl who routinely handled the female domestic troubles. Our good queen demanded more equality in the workforce, but it hadn’t come out in waves, only spurts, and our department had some of the few female officers in the whole city.
Prying was not really in my nature, but asking a few harmless questions to satisfy my curiosity didn’t seem crass. “Where’s your normal partner?”
“Nursing a broken nose and explaining to his wife why he thought it a good idea to proposition his female partner,” she responded tartly, retrieving a notebook from her front pocket.
I winced. Alright, maybe that hadn’t been such a harmless question.
“I can tell by that question,” she continued, eyes thoughtful on my face, “that you really don’t know much about me. Do you.”
When in doubt, try the truth. “I don’t really listen to much gossip. And people are hardly banging down my door to come share the latest juicy tidbit. My lab…distresses people.”
“Is that right? Well. Most people, you know, lead off by asking me why I’m called Shinigami.”
A line of tension ran through her spine, a certain air of resignation about her features, and I had a terrible feeling that people opened old wounds with unnecessary prying. I hoped she wouldn’t think me capable of the same crassness, but I knew nothing of her, nor she of me. I didn’t want to work with such obvious tension between us, so I offered candidly, “I’m of course curious, but you don’t need to explain.”
Her eyes, those richly metallic, golden brown eyes, lingered over my expression for a long moment. “It’s the first thing I said to the Kingsmen when they realized I’d killed Belladonna. ‘I’m a regular Shinigami.’ For some reason the word didn’t translate automatically through my linguistic spell.”
“If you don’t inherently understand the word, only know it through repetition, it wouldn’t translate,” I offered. I didn’t question why she had a translating spell, not with her obviously foreign features.
“Ah, is that why? Anyway, when I said it, I was being facetious. But they took it and ran with it. Now everyone’s calling me by a death god’s name.” Rolling her eyes, she grumbled something under her breath.
“Is that what it means?” The inquiry fell out of my mouth before I could check it.
“That’s what it means. It’s a death god from another culture. Tongue in cheek for me to be called that, as I’ve only ever killed in the line of duty.”
I hope you enjoyed this sample from Magic and the Shinigami Detective by Honor Raconteur!