Review copy provided by author. Full disclosure: author is a friend, but I did not critique or otherwise contribute to this book.
Hello, readers of the future! I got this ARC months and months ago and could not stop myself from reading it, but stillnotbored and I agreed that it would be a lot more useful and interesting to readers if the review came out at least a little bit close to the book, so that people who were interested would not completely forget its existence. (For clarity’s sake, she said “even if you hate it, because then at least there will be discussion,” because my friends are good eggs and value my honesty. I did not hate it! Go friends! Honesty and virtue rewarded!) But honestly I have been champing at the bit for months now, because this book is awesome, and it’s finally finally coming out this week.
So one of the things that happened in the distant mists of the past from which I am writing is that I was on a panel at Minicon about SF and Mystery, and we talked about pitfalls into which speculative mystery plots fall. One of the pitfalls that frustrates me most is when the author is putting a speculative element into a mystery but has not considered its implications–when a ghost can tell the detective whodunnit once, why more ghosts cannot be found to help with further investigations, or if a spirit can move evidence around, what prevents them from planting false evidence or removing true, or etc. One of the things that pleased me most about Delia’s Shadow is that it was clearly written by a fantasy writer. The speculative component was not thrown in after the fact: it was a fully considered part of the mystery Jaime was writing. Hooray integrated ghost mystery! The police procedural proceeded on the one side, and the historical fantasy on the other, and the two integrated neatly without clash, except amongst the characters’ worldviews, which is where it ought to have clashed.
The setting was San Francisco around the World’s Fair, after the earthquake and still showing the effects. Having lived in the Bay Area after the other big earthquake (this one was years after the 1906; mine was the Loma Prieta), I can verify that the aftereffects stick around long after the aftershocks, and I found that was handled far more realistically than some of the Bay Area books that idealize the place. It was a setting, not a love song, and I appreciated that.
Those of you who hang around these parts may find the Tuckerizations charming, or you may find them distracting. I inclined a little in the latter direction, but that was my main complaint, which is a pretty small complaint for a first novel. Highly, highly recommended.