Bureau: Conned – Kim Fielding
World War I veteran Thomas Donne is new to San Francisco. Always a stoic man, shell shock and a lost love have nearly turned his heart to stone. No matter–a private eye has no room for softness. Almost broke, he takes on what appears to be a simple case: finding a missing young man.
As a magician and medium, Abraham Ferencz cons his audiences into believing he can cheat death and commune with their dearly departed. Although his séances are staged, the spirits are very real, and they’ve brought him almost more pain than he can bear.
When Donne’s case becomes complicated and the bodies start to pile up, he and Ferencz must fight their way through a web of trickery and lies. The truth is obscured by the San Francisco fog, and in their uncanny world, anyone can catch a bullet.
Bureau is a series I’ve been diligently following since the beginning. Six books in and it’s still giving us lovable characters and enjoyable stories with magic and heart.
Conned is the latest installment. Private detective and former Londoner, Thomas Donne was hired by a rich and dubious wannabe politician named Herbert Townsend to find a young man. Townsend was decidedly non-specific about the details but was willing to pay good money.
Thomas’s investigations led him to magician and conman, Abe Ferencz. Abe has been employing the young man as his assistant. A series of deaths led the PI and conman to work together to uncover the killer’s identity. All the victims were known to Abe. He could be next.
Ghosts and spirits aside, this is the most spiritual of all the books. Religion played an important role with Abe’s Jewish background being a crucial part of his character. The story put emphasize on how it anchored him to his true self.
All the books in the series has always been, for a lack of better word, vague about the definitive presence of a god. I liked how the world-building didn’t limit itself to the usual religious concepts. Instead, it had a more general and inclusive ethos which makes a lot more sense in a world where literally anything can exist
Townsend explained the Bureau‘s mission something to the effect of the lines of good and evil, friends or enemy are porous and it’s their job is to nudge those lines gently until they are in the right place. It’s about protecting “everything that’s valuable in people and not just human people“.
Our heroes, Thomas and Abe, were men who had seen enough deaths to know not to waste life in regrets. So I could understand how they want to grab life by the balls and jump head first into a relationship in just a matter of days. I liked how the author executed the romantic development. She did it in such a way that you feel the strength of their connection and not how short the timeline actually is.
While I liked the pacing of the romance, I did feel the drag in the first half of story. This was the part where they found the dead bodies one by one. There was the going-around-in-circles feel to it. Thankfully, the story picked up upon the appearance of Agent Crespo.
Also, while I liked the general world-building, in this story, the paranormal elements were kind of confusing and a bit scattered in its presentation. Maybe it helps if the reader is more familiar with Judaism than I am.
The book is set in the late 1920s. There’s a great sense of time and place with a noir vibe. It was an era of cloches and speakeasies, a time I’m fascinated with but don’t want to time travel to because, wow, people smoke and drink like there’s no tomorrow.
This is a prequel of sorts to the entire Bureau world. The agency was only less than a decade old. We also meet Townsend before he was the West Coast Chief.
I’m happy we finally get a backgrounder on the Chief. He is always present but mostly in the shadows, wielding his considerable influence and power, nudging various characters towards the best outcome. There were hints of his paranormal nature throughout the series. Here, we get his origin story. It’s definitely worth the wait especially with how it was related to a key secondary character in the story.
Conned might not be my favorite book in the series (that honor goes to Creature) but it was a great addition, nonetheless. It certainly answered some burning questions I had and getting a look at the early days of the agency is a treat. You will meet men brave enough to catch bullets. You will see what a true mensch is capable of. And learn what it is about all along.
A very long game.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
The books can be read as standalones but I recommend starting at the beginning where a half angel and a captive demon discovered their cosmic connection. There will be a holiday-themed book about them soon.
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