Title: Ill Tidings (Augustus Derlyth: Occult Detective Book One)
Publisher: Knotted Road Press
Author: Blaze Ward
Pages: 190pp
Price: $4.99

The Great War is over. But there are other wars to be fought, battles that have been ongoing since the beginning of time. Augustus Derlyth is a soldier in this ancient war, a soldier-scholar whose weapon of choice is magic. At his side stand Captain Digby, a giant of a man with a cool head in a crisis and a gift for physical violence; and Lady Claudette, as blue-blooded as they come, but with a keen interest in unseemly and taboo subjects. …. A strange and gruesome murder at a museum in the middle of the night leads Augustus and his friends on a labyrinthine path involving demon possession, arcane artifacts, dying bloodlines, and desperate bargains. The question, though, is this: will Augustus unravel the mystery before anyone else dies? Can he stop the fell fiend threatening to cut a bloody swath through the streets of London …?

The occult detective genre is one of my favorites. I adore stories in which mages apply both logic and the arcane to solving the mystery before them and saving the day. When I learned that Blaze Ward, who wrote the awesome Gunderson Case Files, was planning a new such series, I pre-ordered the first book as soon as it was available.

I was not disappointed.

Augustus is a terrific character. He has the look of a harmless, middle-aged scholar. But he is ruthless. Anyone who crosses the line and unleashes anything on the world that will harm innocents is immediately his enemy, and he will do whatever is necessary to hunt them down and stop them. With lethal force. He has also been doing this long enough that he has acquired a network of reliable specialists and informants (none of them work for free; fair exchange is expected in this world, and failure to pay what is due is courting a fate worse than death). Augustus’ quest to solve the murder and find the mage who summoned the fiend takes him from the finest halls of Britain’s aristocracy to secret occult libraries to a literal underground inhabited by humans and things-that-pass-for-human. It is a thrilling ride.

Digby and Lady Claudette are just as interesting, and just as strong (in their own ways) as Augustus. Digby might be big, but he isn’t stupid. He knows when to attack and when to hold back and let Augustus do his thing. Lady Claudette may be a Duke’s daughter, but she’s a modern woman: highly educated, knowledgeable about the world, and determined to expose those terrors and crimes that should be held up to the light. She’s not a tag-along. She’s a vital part of the team.

Ill Tidings was just plain fun. I can’t wait to read the next book.

Highly recommended to fans of classic occult detectives such as Carnacki and Dr. Silence, as well as modern tales such as the Little Yokai series by Scott Walker, Inspector Lestrade: The Black Temple and Other Stories by William Meikle, and The Arcane Casebook series by Dan Willis.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]

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