Source: Review copy
Publication: 8th November 2018 from Louise Walters Books
In Old London, where paranormal races co-exist with ordinary humans, criminal verdicts delivered by the all-seeing Heralds of Justice are infallible. After a man is declared guilty of murder and sentenced to death, his daughter turns to private investigator Yannia Wilde to do the impossible and prove the Heralds wrong.Yannia has escaped a restrictive life in the Wild Folk conclave where she was raised, but her origins mark her as an outsider in the city. Those origins lend her the sensory abilities of all of nature. Yet Yannia is lonely and struggling to adapt to life in the city. The case could be the break she needs. She enlists the help of her only friend, a Bird Shaman named Karrion, and together they accept the challenge of proving a guilty man innocent. So begins a breathless race against time and against all conceivable odds. Can Yannia and Karrion save a man who has been judged infallibly guilty?
Do you remember when you were a child, going to see Peter Pan for the first time in the theatre, and clapping as loud as .you could to save Tinkerbell’s life because you believed in fairies with all your heart? I do, and that’s more than 50 years ago for me. Well, Laura Laasko’s world made me believe just as much and that makes it very special indeed.
Of course, I also I blame James Oswald, I really do. Magical/urban fantasy crime is not something I would normally choose to read, but I think all those Tony McLean novels have softened my brain to this approach to crime. It’s a bloody good thing too, because Fallible Justice is a corker.
Yannia Wilde is one of the Wild Folk, someone who draws power from the natural world and requires the natural world to live and breathe. She has left her rather strict enclave in the country for reasons she alludes to but which are never clearly articulated and now lives in Old London, the City of London being the part where most magical people dwell.
London is a place where magical people and humans co-exist, with regulators on both sides who determine guilt or innocence. This shared set justice principles governs both communities and they often work together.
Working as a private investigator and hindered only by her genetic condition of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which leaves her in constant chronic pain, for there are no magical cures for this illness. Constantly remembering her own painful past in the Wild Folk enclave she now lives as a bit of an outsider, working with an apprentice, a Bird Shaman called Karrion. Karrion has a fine arts degree and a penchant for piercings and dressing as a goth.
Yannia is hired by a Mage, the daughter of a man condemned to die in five days time. He has been judged guilty by the Heralds of Justice, known for their infallibility when it comes to truth and judgement. So when Yannia accepts the job, she knows it is likely to be an impossible task and accomplished in an even more impossible timescale.
Utilising, in the main, straightforward investigative skills, enhanced a little by her friends and use of some of her intuitive powers, she sets out on a dangerous path to track down the real killer.
Cleverly merging detective fiction with urban fantasy Lassko brings a different dimension to a structurally standard crime mystery.
This novel works for a host of reasons. The writing is excellent, with strong and vivid descriptive passages that really earth you into the sights, smells and sounds that Yannia experiences. There is richness and lyricism in this prose. You can see through her eyes and that really makes the novel come to life in full, vibrant colour. The characters are both excellent and intriguing and the partnership between Yannia and Karrion , teacher and student, is nicely light and full of humour as well as caring. This is a pairing that works really well.
Nor is this a book that is all fairies and light (there are no fairies). There is darkness and danger here a-plenty, not always from obvious sources and some of the observations of death are pretty full on.
I loved the characters in this book from the enigmatic Wishearth, to the Met’s D.C. Jamie Manning and the delightful Lady Bergamon, they are all people I would want to encounter between the pages of a Wilding novel again.
Multi-faceted, diverse characters and a sharp and focussed plot with an escalating pace driving a race against time, together with a surprising conclusion all combine to make this one of my top reads. This is a beautifully imagined world in which I totally believed.
Verdict: If you are looking for top class crime writing that is different, this definitely fits the bill.
About Laura Laakso
Laura is a Finn, who has spent most of her adult life in England. She is currently living in Hertfordshire with a flatmate who knows too much and their three dogs. Books and storytelling have always been a big part of her life, be it in the form of writing fanfiction, running tabletop roleplaying games or, more recently, writing original fiction. When she is not writing, editing or plotting, she works as an accountant. With two degrees in archaeology, she possesses useful skills for disposing of or digging up bodies, and if her internet search history is anything to go by, she is on several international watch lists.