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Cover of Death By Silver

His practice newly established, metaphysician Ned Mathey can’t afford to turn away any clients. But the latest Londoner to seek Ned’s magical aid gives him pause: Mr Edgar Nevett, an arrogant banker, is the father of the bully who made Ned’s life hell at boarding school. Nevertheless, Ned accepts the commission to ensure the Nevett family silver bears no ancient or modern curses, and then prepares to banish the Nevett family to unpleasant memory again. Until Edgar Nevett is killed by an enchanted silver candlestick—one of the pieces Ned declared magically harmless.

Calling on his old school friend Julian Lynes—private detective and another victim of the younger Nevett—Ned races to solve the murder, clear the stain on his professional reputation, and lay to rest the ghosts of his past.

Assisted by Ned’s able secretary Miss Frost, who has unexpected metaphysical skills of her own, Ned and Julian explore London’s criminal underworld and sodomitical demimonde, uncover secrets and scandals, confront the unexpected murderer and the mysteries of their own relationship.

So let me lay out the plot for Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold's Death By Silver: Ned Mathey, a metaphysician (… he’s a consulting magician), was hired to check his former school bully’s family silverware was free of curses, which makes it a little awkward when the person who hired him is murdered with a cursed silver candlestick after he declares everything safe. Fortunately, his best friend (with benefits), Julian Lyne, happens to be a consulting detective and willing to investigate, even if he hates the victim’s family as much as anyone.

In news shocking to everyone: I devoured it.

I love the world building — it’s a magical alternate history, which you may have noticed is where I live! I enjoy the way it’s built magic into the fabric of Victorian society, such as enchanted clothing and the way that it’s apparently fashionable for things to be cursed (because of course it is.). I did also appreciate that as the authors decided to keep the patriarchal nightmare from Victorian society, they did at least make a point of highlighting how ridiculous it is, from the bullying and misery of the protagonists’ childhoods to the way that the contributions of women are sidelined – Miss Frost, Mathey’s secretary, is capable of solving a magical problem that has plagued a series of metaphysicians over years in maybe five minutes flat, but none of the men trying to solve it even thought of that because it uses ~women’s work.~ I was unsurprised, but also super mad.

… And speaking of the bullying: the story does weave flashbacks of the protagonists’ school days into the narrative to contextualise what it means for them to be involved with this family again, and it’s bleak. Every single flashback is just another layer of misery heaped on what came before, and it’s a lot. Like, “teenagers perpetuating physical and sexual abuse on younger teenagers with no recourse due to the encoding of the practice as boarding school culture” levels of a lot. It’s thankfully not very explicit, but it’s enough that by the end I was starting to go “Oh no, what now?” every time a flashback started. Take that as a fair warning!

But as for the mystery: it was so satisfying. There was actual investigation, a satisfactory number of red herrings, and I was so worried from the blurb that it was going to be one of those stories where half of the book is wasted on proving that the protagonist didn’t do it, but fortunately that wasn’t the case here. Instead, there’s a twisty mystery where I wasn’t yelling who(blatantly)dunnit from chapter three! And it was fun and required the skills of both protagonists, and I was so happy about it!

Finally, I quite enjoyed the romance as well! If romances based on miscommunications and misunderstandings of what the other person wants are not your thing, skip Death By Silver; it will only cause you pain. If you do want people who don’t necessarily understand each other trying to muddle through anyway, BOY IS THIS A BOOK FOR YOU. AND ME. Because it is very much a book about people who love each other and assume that their intentions are plain, while apparently forgetting that their partner can only go off their actions! I am weak and this messy relationship was what I wanted.

BASICALLY, I loved Death By Silver. I could have lived without the layers of abuse in backstory, but apart from that it was what I wanted!

(This was a recommendation from [twitter.com profile] tambourine, so thank you! And clearly I need to take all of her recs!)

[Caution warnings: physical and sexual abuse in backstory, bullying]
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