Source: Review copy
Publication: 17 May 2019 from Louise Walters Books
Yannia Wilde returns to the Wild Folk conclave where she grew up, and
to the deathbed of her father, the conclave’s Elderman. She is soon drawn back
into the Wild Folk way of life and into a turbulent relationship with Dearon,
to whom she is betrothed.
Back in London, unassuming office worker Tim Wedgebury is surprised when police appear on his doorstep with a story about how he was stabbed in the West End. His body disappeared before the paramedics’ eyes. Given that Tim is alive and well, the police chalk the first death up to a Mage prank. But when Tim “dies” a second time, Detective Inspector Jamie Manning calls Yannia and, torn between returning to the life she has built in Old London and remaining loyal to the conclave and to Dearon, she strikes a compromise with the Elderman that allows her to return temporarily to the city.
There she sets about solving the mystery of Tim’s many deaths with the help of her apprentice, Karrion. They come to realise that with every death, more of the echo becomes reality, and Yannia and Karrion find themselves in increasing danger as they try to save Tim. Who is the echo murderer? What sinister game are they playing? And what do they truly want?
Last year I read a book that both captured my imagination and genuinely impressed me as top class crime writing in the midst of an urban fantasy setting. That book was Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso. 6 months on, and one of my top books of last year, it still stands out as noteworthy.
So I was incredibly keen to read the second in the series, Echo Murder. This book expands on Yannia’s back storyas we see her return to the Wild Folk conclave to visit her father, the Wild Folk’s Elderman and where she comes face to face with her betrothed, Dearon. Now we understand the internal conflict that Yannia experiences every time she thinks of Dearon. This is a couple who are destined to be together. His magnetism captures her soul, makes her want him. Yet every fibre of her own self rebels against the dictates of her father; the Elderman who dictated years ago that Dearon would take his place as Head of the Wild Folk and that Yannia would be by his side as he did so.
Striking an uneasy bargain with her father to stave off her destiny, Yannia returns to Old London where D.I. Jamie Manning has an unusual case for Yannia and her young apprentice, Karrion. The crime is very unusual and in this book we see more of Karrion and what he is able to contribute to Yannia’s burgeoning detective agency.
A young man called Tim is dying, over and over again, and every time he dies, there is less of an air of unreality and more damage to Tim left behind. Unless Yannia and Karrion can solve this strange crime, Tim will soon be dead forever and there’s every chance that Yannia will be drawn with him.
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 Laakso brings a different dimension to a structurally standard crime mystery.
As before, Echo Murder 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 light and full of humour, as well as caring. This is a pairing that works really well and we can see how it has developed from the first book to this one.
Revisiting the enigmatic Wishearth and the fabulous healer, Lady Bergamon, is a joy and its good to realise that Yannia has people in old London who are watching out for her. This is old magic, deeper that time and it shines through in Laakso’s storytelling.
Laakso creates a believable world in which anything can happen and yet nothing seems out of bounds of our imagination. Her magical people are well thought through and offer a unique perspective on traditional tropes. Laakso has clealy got a well thought through trajectory for her story arc, as each book introduces new characters such as Fria the cat shaman, who may have a slight place in the current story arc, but who are clearly designed to have larger roles in future books. I need to know what’s happening to Yannia. When’s the next one out???
Verdict: A fabulous, rich sense of place, multi-faceted, diverse characters and a sharp and focussed plot combined with pace and tension all come together to produce a compelling and striking crime novel in a beautifully imagined world. I don’t read urban fantasy (at least that’s what I tell myself) but this crime/urban fantasy crossover series has me utterly hooked.
Laura Laakso 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.