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.
Posts on Kim Fieldings works here.
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Soulbound: A Ferry Of Bones & Gold – Hailey Turner
When the gods come calling, you don’t get to say no.
Patrick Collins is three years into a career as a special agent for the Supernatural Operations Agency when the gods come calling to collect a soul debt he owes them. An immortal has gone missing in New York City and bodies are showing up in the wake of demon-led ritual killings that Patrick recognizes all too easily from his nightmares.
Unable to walk away, Patrick finds himself once again facing off against mercenary magic users belonging to the Dominion Sect. Standing his ground alone has never been a winning option in Patrick’s experience, but it’s been years since he’s had a partner he could trust.
Looking for allies in all the wrong places, Patrick discovers the Dominion Sect’s next target is the same werewolf the Fates themselves have thrown into his path. Patrick has been inexplicably attracted to the man from their first meeting, but desire has no place in war. That doesn’t stop Patrick from wanting what he shouldn’t have. Jonothon de Vere is gorgeous, dangerous, and nothing but trouble—to the case, to the fight against every hell, and ultimately, to Patrick’s heart and soul.
In the end, all debts must be paid, and Patrick can only do what he does best—cheat death.
A Ferry of Bones & Gold is a 115k word m/m urban fantasy with a gay romantic subplot and a HFN ending.
I think Netflix should pick this up as a series.
A Ferry of Bones & Gold is the kind of richly realized world you can write pages upon pages of fandom wiki entries. You got gods from different pantheons, were creatures and every type of magic user available. The Mage Corps and the 30-Day War alone is worth reading as a separate book. I dare not multi-task while I was listening to this lest I miss any of the mini info dumps scattered throughout the book. It was a heroic effort not to inundate the reader with backstories, the book had a big cast and any of them could be a good lead character. Hailey Turner succeeded in delivering all the need-to-knows without slowing down the pace or detracting from action.
And this is one hell of a fast-paced, action-packed story. Patrick Collins, formerly a soldier, now a special agent for the Supernatural Operations Agency should have been in Maui sipping drinks with umbrellas. Instead, he was assigned to handle a case of a missing god and demon-led killings that threw him into the path of shifters, particularly Jono, an alpha without a pack and whom he was attracted to. One important pack member was the seer, Merrick, who was the target of the Dominion sect. There were many attempts on Merrick’s and Patrick’s lives and a few more dead bodies found. Demons started appearing and only a battle-hardened mage like Patrick can stop them.
Now when a book promises magic, I expect to see spells being cast left and right and I am happy that the book did not hold back on the magic. There were many heartstopping battle scenes and Patrick giving it all he got until he was burned out. His kamikazee approach to battle might wreck havoc on his friends’ stress levels but he gets the job done. And this time he left the city standing.
The book also talks about soul debts and how Patrick, Jono and other mortals seems to be subject to the whims of the gods. On the other hand, the gods needed to be remembered and worshiped in order to be relevant. This, along with the inevitability of fate and Patrick trying really really hard to fight it create another layer of conflict. That they’re inescapable made me feel for the characters, although it’s hard to feel sorry for Patrick, he’s a cocky bastard.
The romance between Patrick and Jono was the insta-attraction kind. They were thrown together, literally, by the fates. And though I think their relationship could have been better developed, the short time they spent battling demons and dodging bombs created a strong bond between them. Bonus that we get Jono’s POV! It was fun seeing him get all possessive and growly over the bossy little mage.
Soulbound is an engrossing series and A Ferry of Bones & Gold was an awesome series opener. It delivered an immersive world, gripping plot, a great cast, and enough magic to keep the wannabe wizard in me happy. The romantic subplot mesh well with the story. It was good enough for Patrick and Jono to be memorable without taking focus from the rest of the story. They get an HFN this time but what do the gods have in store for them next?
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits