It’s a real pleasure today – just a little later than I’d planned – to share my review of Echo Murder by Laura Laakso, published by Louise Walters Books on 6th June as an ebook and in paperback. Signed copies are also available, from the publisher’s website bookshop, and will be sent with a postcard and a signed flash fiction by Laura, featuring characters from the books in “off stage” moments.
When this exciting new small publisher sent me an e-copy of Laura’s debut, Fallible Justice, I was so excited about it that I published my review a full two months before its release – something I almost never do. Urban fantasy and paranormal crime are so far removed from the books I usually read that even I was surprised how much I loved it – one of the best and most original books I’ve read in a very long time. And I’m now delighted to have read this one, the second in the Wilde Investigations series – totally readable as a stand-alone – and I think I might have enjoyed it even more…
Yannia Wilde returns to the Wild Folk conclave where she grew up, and to the deathbed of her father, the conclave’s Elderman. She is soon drawn back into the Wild Folk way of life and into a turbulent relationship with Dearon, to whom she is betrothed.
Back in London, unassuming office worker Tim Wedgebury is surprised when police appear on his doorstep with a story about how he was stabbed in the West End. His body disappeared before the paramedics’ eyes. Given that Tim is alive and well, the police chalk the first death up to a Mage prank. But when Tim “dies” a second time, Detective Inspector Jamie Manning calls Yannia and, torn between returning to the life she has built in Old London and remaining loyal to the conclave and to Dearon, she strikes a compromise with the Elderman that allows her to return temporarily to the city.
There she sets about solving the mystery of Tim’s many deaths with the help of her apprentice, Karrion. They come to realise that with every death, more of the echo becomes reality, and Yannia and Karrion find themselves in increasing danger as they try to save Tim. Who is the echo murderer? What sinister game are they playing? And what do they truly want?
If you haven’t read the first book in this wonderful series (and if you haven’t, you really should…), you have a whole new world here to discover and enjoy – Old London with its magic and paranormal races living alongside the world of humans, the threats and challenges of that uneasy relationship, the rule of heralds, the law enforcement by the paladins, and the shamen, mages and feykin with their differing powers and characteristics.
Yannia herself is one of the Wild Folk, and while the first story perhaps focussed more on her “human” frailty, this book opens by further exploring her heritage and past – with perhaps a glimpse of her future – as she returns to the Northern conclave to visit her father, the conclave’s elderman who is approaching the end of his life. The whole setting is quite wonderfully drawn, and gives a deeper understanding of the world she comes from, the source of her powers, and the reasons why they wane while she lives her urban life: we also gain a greater insight into her relationship with Dearon, the previously shadowy figure from her past, and the complicated ties of obligation and destiny.
But when the focus of the story shifts to Old London, the core of the book is another investigation for the private investigator and her apprentice. This time it’s a bizarre series of repetitions, increasing in threat and violence: mild-mannered (and perplexed) Tim, who has no personal involvement in the world of magic, finds himself dying again and again in a parallel reality – a series of echos – and the magical powers involved defy the usual detection. Yannia and Karrion become deeply entangled in the situation as it escalates and multiplies, the echos begin to leak into the everyday world, and they find themselves increasingly drawn into the world of illusions and in considerable personal danger.
Does that all sound a little weird? Maybe it does – but I promise it isn’t. Well ok, perhaps it is – but it’s all so totally convincing, so very real, a world you unquestioningly believe in. The author’s imagination and ability to build her world of alternative reality is extraordinary: but she’s also a master storyteller, and the transition into her slightly skewed world is never anything but easy. Her characters are just wonderful – Yannia’s a fascinating mix of strength and frailty, endearing in her moments of weakness, impressive in her tenacity and determination: the knowledge of her previous life only deepens understanding of the constant conflict she lives with. And I really love the relationship between her and apprentice Karrion, the bird shamen – he draws on the power of rooks and ravens, but also (embarrassingly) suffers the attention of pigeons – and their real care and affection for each other is immensely touching.
The characters I particularly loved from the first book – the magnificent Wishearth and Lady Bergamon – do feature, but other characters are introduced or developed further: I particularly took to Fria the cat shamen, felt an uncomfortable shiver from the sinister Lord Ellesthorne, and there’s an interesting coffee-shop encounter with an unfamiliar feykin. I particularly enjoyed too the visit to One Magic Change – you know, the magical shopping centre next to St Paul’s – with the mages showing off their powers for the tourists, the Paladins in battle armour looking for stolen goods, the incongruous food court, and the small shops on the top floor with their gems and gadgets – and the intriguing meeting with Tinker Thaylor for an unusual purchase.
The writing is just superb – rich descriptions that invoke all the senses, small details that make an unfamiliar world entirely real, an emotional depth that might not be expected, a rawness that shocks, a gentle warmth that gives an inner glow. The book’s world might be unfamiliar, but the quality of the writing really takes your breath away – but there’s a lovely lightness at times too, very clever use of dialogue, a nice touch of humour, a sense of the absurd. But this is also a thoroughly gripping story, with a real sense of life-threatening danger as everything escalates towards a dramatic and thrilling climax.
I absolutely love this series – I’m already looking forward to the next Wilde Investigation and wondering what the future might hold, particularly for Yannia…
About the author
Laura is a Finn who has spent most of her adulthood 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.
Laura’s debut novel Fallible Justice was published in November 2018, the first in the paranormal crime series Wilde Investigations. The follow up, Echo Murder, was published on 6th June.
Laura tweets @LLaaksoWriter and her website is here.