Thieftaker (Thieftaker Chronicles)
by D.B. Jackson
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath
Review by Mel Jacob
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765327611
Date: 03 July 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Ethan Kaille, a conjuror, pursues a precarious existence as a thieftaker in Boston amid the turmoil preceding the Revolutionary War. As a thieftaker, he specializes in finding and recovering lost items for owners. His work is complicated by Sephira Pryce, the head of a gang of toughs, who regards herself as the master thieftaker of Colonial Boston. She tolerates Ethan as long as he stays away from her rich clients.
His current case for a wealthy merchant has drawn her attention, and she has her toughs beat him and take his fee. Aware the case has aspects only Ethan can handle, she grudgingly agrees to let him continue his investigations. The case involves recovering a valuable broach stolen from the merchant's daughter the night she was killed and also finding the killer.
Ethan doesn't take murder cases, but this one involves magic. He sensed a spell casting the night the young woman died, and her corpse, with no wounds, reeks of magic. A spell he casts in the crypt of King's Chapel confirms this, but tells little else. The conjurer has concealed the actual spell. While in the crypt he meets Mister Pell, a minister with potential as conjuror, but church authorities frown on such people. They become friends.
Ethan spends much of the novel being beaten or tortured by various enemies. Sephira arranges most of those although the rival conjurer wields the real agony. Ethan is persistent if nothing else and endures to fight again.
Jackson provides plenty of color and uses historical characters such as Samuel Adams and Ebenezer Mackintosh. The climatic battle pits Ethan against the strongest conjuror he has ever encountered who is capable of inflicting unimagined agonies.
The role of a thieftaker resembles the hero of Jeri Westerson Crispin Guest series. Crispin, a disgraced knight, solves crimes in medieval London, and the tales often have a touch of mysticism. Other writers have also explored Colonial America and magic for novels including Robert McCammon's Mathew Corbett's World (Speaks the Nightbird, Queen of Bedlam, Mister Slaughter, and The Providence Rider) set in the early 18th century. C.C. Finley's Traitor to the Crown series features witches fighting in the American Revolution. Jackson's novel is a bit less violent than those of McCammon.