SERIES: Murder and Magic #1
REPRESENTATION: Black MCs, all Black cast, queer supporting characters
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Historical fantasy mystery
THE CONDUCTORS is a fantastic and original murder mystery novel.
Before we get started, I want to get something out of the way. The cover (while absolutely stunning, and nothing I would want to change) paints, I think, a slightly false picture of the story inside. I was expecting a historical fantasy with a (relatively) dark crime element. THE CONDUCTORS isn’t quite a cozy mystery, but it probably sits somewhere between the two. The story is far more amateur sleuth/ murder mystery than fantasy and, while I really enjoyed that, I think that’s put off some reviewers.
Aside from the slight mismatch of expectations, I thought THE CONDUCTORS was perhaps a tad long for the story it was telling and could have been 50-or-so pages shorter but that’s a minor niggle.
On to the positives!
THE CONDUCTORS was wonderful!
• Hetty and Benji: Our sleuthing protagonists, I loved these two. Both headstrong and stubborn, they were a delight to read about. The marriage-of-convenience offers a nice bit of will-they-won’t-they tention and, as a couple, they have adorable chemistry.
• The supporting characters were wonderful. At first, I thought the cast might be a little large to properly keep track of, but they each have such well-drawn personalities it wasn’t a problem. I especially liked the somewhat gloomy Oliver.
• The setting: A historical mystery that not set in Regency/ Tudor or Wartime England? What’s this? The historical Philadelphia that Glover paints is rich and vivid, the neighborhood the Rhodes live in filled with interesting characters and intriguing secrets. Having the sleuths have been involved in the Underground Railroad opens up a whole range of interesting stories to explore, while also making sure the protagonists feel worldly and competent enough to pull off their snooping. There’s none of the “too dumb to live” moments that can be so jarring in a mystery.
• I loved the magic system. It’s suitable, with the fantasy being only a small part of the story, but I really liked the idea of Hetty sewing constellations into her clothes, which can then be triggered for various effects as needed. I’ll be interested to see how the two types of magic butt up against each other and to learn a bit more about the differences between Sorcery and Hetty’s conjurings.
THE CONDUCTORS was a totally unique story and a delight to read. Without a doubt, I’ll be buying a copy of the sequel, THE UNDERTAKERS, when it comes out next year.
As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Hetty Rhodes helped usher dozens of people north with her wits and magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. When they find one of their friends slain in an alley, Hetty and Benjy bury the body and set off to find answers. But the secrets and intricate lies of the elites of Black Philadelphia only serve to dredge up more questions. To solve this mystery, they will have to face ugly truths all around them, including the ones about each other.
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.