This is something I never usually do – review a book on Being Anne more than two months before release – but today I’m going to break the rules, because I can’t contain myself any longer. Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso will be published by Louise Walters Books on 8th November – a first acquisition for this exciting new imprint – and will be available in paperback, e-book and audiobook (paperback available for pre-order, more details below). My thanks to Louise Walters for my advance reading e-copy.
The first in a paranormal crime series, Wilde Investigations, this is simply one of the best and most original books I’ve read in a very long time. And yes, you did read that right, the bit about “paranormal crime”. It’s a million miles away from my usual reading – you know, this person who usually never usually touches anything with “paranormal” in its description, and doesn’t read much crime either? But this book totally blew me away…
In Old London, where paranormal races co-exist with ordinary humans, criminal verdicts delivered by the all-seeing Heralds of Justice are infallible. After a man is declared guilty of murder and sentenced to death, his daughter turns to private investigator Yannia Wilde to do the impossible and prove the Heralds wrong.
Yannia has escaped a restrictive life in the Wild Folk conclave where she was raised, but her origins mark her as an outsider in the city. Those origins lend her the sensory abilities of all of nature. Yet Yannia is lonely and struggling to adapt to life in the city. The case could be the break she needs. She enlists the help of her only friend, a Bird Shaman named Karrion, and together they accept the challenge of proving a guilty man innocent.
So begins a breathless race against time and against all conceivable odds. Can Yannia and Karrion save a man who has been judged infallibly guilty?
And now I’ve decided to write a review, I really don’t know where to start – I’ve never written about wild folk, shamen, heralds and paladins before. But the first thing that caught my attention about this book was its intense richness and the literary quality of the writing – it opens with what feels almost a sensory overload, and then opens up into an unfamiliar imagined world, the product of a quite extraordinary imagination.
Old London is the home for a collection of paranormal races: I almost said “creatures”, but that would be so wrong, as their differences from the humans who inhabit New London are only their heritage and their magical powers. Yannia borrows the senses of nearby animals to detect the powers of others, distinguishing by smell – but she also enjoys a packet of custard creams and a cup of tea with her apprentice (who just happens to talk to birds). The paranormal beings have frailties and faults that are all too human – Yannia struggles with the pain of EDS (so well woven into the story), both she and Karrion need reading glasses, and others show a whole range of arrogance, pride, selfishness and more. The justice system in Old London is totally different – paladins rather than police, infallible verdicts delivered by heralds, prisoners’ magical powers subdued by powerful chains – and magnificently imagined. I loved some of the little details too – the magic detectors above doorways, the hotel with its corridor reserved for those with magical powers.
The characters are simply wonderful. Yannia instantly won me over – her background and its secrets, the joy of recharging her powers by absorbing the natural world, her loneliness and determined self sufficiency, her struggles with pain control, her yearning for justice. And then there’s Karrion – their relationship is an absolute joy, Morse and Lewis in another dimension, with him finding his way, swelling with pride when he gets things right, and a real affection between them. And then there are the other characters – I just loved the diversity of the shamen, their different characteristics and subtle differentiation between their powers. And I’m anxious that I shouldn’t spoil this book for anyone, but just wait until you come across Wishearth and Lady Bergamon…
And a word about the crime investigation that drives the story, and with so many twists and turns and a relentless pace and sense of desperate urgency as they race against time to find the evidence to prevent an execution. There’s a familiarity about the way they follow leads (and some red herrings), conduct interviews, back their hunches – and I loved the interaction with the “human” police force when that proves necessary. This isn’t an entirely familiar world, but it’s one I inhabited and totally believed in.
Just in case I’ve left you in any doubt amid all that enthusiasm, this was one of the very best books I’ve read this year – and I’ve hardly mentioned the exceptional quality of the writing, the unexpected emotional depth, the breathtaking descriptions. I read little crime, the paranormal usually has me running in the opposite direction, and there are no series that I follow – but I can’t wait for the next Wilde Investigation. Don’t miss this wonderful book, whatever you do…
Paperback copies of Fallible Justice can be preordered via Louise Walters’ website, and will be signed by the author and sent with free postcards and a “flash fiction” hand written and signed by Laura. These flash fictions will feature characters in “off stage” moments from the novel. All books pre-ordered will be posted out in October, hot off the press, ahead of the publication date of 8th November.
About the author
Laura Laakso is a Finn who has spent most of her adult life in England. Writing and storytelling has always been an integral part of her life, but it was turning thirty that led her to pursue a career in writing seriously. When she is not writing or working in her day job as an accountant, she is training and competing with her two dogs.