Ritual Crime Unit: Disturbed Earth
by E E Richardson
Review by Gayle Surrette
Abaddon Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781781083154
Date: 07 April 2015 List Price $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
DCI Claire Pierce (North Yorkshire Police) is in charge of the Ritual Crime Unit. This unit is underfunded, understaffed, and considered a joke by the officers in regular departments. Partly because they just don't believe in magic -- ritual or otherwise. Pierce comes back to work after being wounded in her last case to find a new officer installed as Acting Team Leader, DI Graham Dawson. Only Sergeant Deepan Mistry is left in the department. There's also two new rookies.
As Pierce begins to get acquainted with her new charges, she learns that most of the information and materials from the case she was injured on, and some of her officers killed, have disappeared. There's also a new Superintendent and no one seems to know what happened to the one who had been in charge prior to her injury. She may be getting paranoid, but it's difficult to tell if her new people are trying to screw up the new cases or just not fully cognizant of the danger in their line of work. They all passed their qualifying exams but ... Pierce is leery of trusting them.
On her first day back, they get called in to check out some skulls in a field. Dawson is already on scene when she gets there. He's also upset the local constables aren't following protocol. One bad decision leads to another and they're lucky any of them survived the day.
A lower priority case is taken as a chance to check out the newer officers. Some artifacts are being stolen from museums and private collections. The thefts seem to involve magic. The objects taken aren't particularly valuable either, so why are they being stolen?
Readers don't know what to think either. Is DCI Pierce paranoid after her injury and recover? Is the new Superintendent out to de-fund and destroy the department? Can she trust her new constables? Is DI Dawson over-eager, incompetent, or trying to sabotage the Unit? And what is with the artifact in Magical Analysis that's giving off danger-danger signals? Is it related to their skull case, or is it something else?
I picked this one up with no real expectations other than it might be an interesting police procedural in a world similar to our own but with magic and shapeshifters. It turned out to have some interesting characters who are in over their heads because there is no book to go by when dealing with criminals using magic or, even worse, fools dabbling in things they don't understand.
There are several cases open at the same time, all being handled by RCU's small staff. There's also the side issue of Pierce trying to follow up on the case that got her injured, along with several other officers. There's the usual office politics and maybe something a bit more sinister going on in the background. This looks like it is shaping up to be an interesting series. It may not be to everyone's taste but it was twisty, multi-threaded and, more importantly to me, internally consistent in its use of magic.
Worth checking out if you enjoy magic and mayhem.