Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Spells for the Dead by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood #5
Published by Ace on July 28, 2020
Genres: Urban Fantasy
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Nell Ingram is a rookie PsyLed agent, using the powers she can channel from deep within the earth to solve paranormal crimes. Together with her team, she's taken on the darkest magic and the direst foes. But she'll need to tap into every ounce of power she has for her newest case.
Nell is called to the Tennessee mansion of a country music star and finds a disturbing scene--dead bodies rapidly decaying before everyone's eyes. The witch on her team, T. Laine, knows this can only be one thing: death magic, a rare type of craft used to steal life forces. PsyLed needs to find this lethal killer fast. But when a paranormal-hating FBI agent tries to derail the investigation, they find themselves under attack from all sides.
I was excited to be back in the world of the Soulwood series. As with most urban fantasy, I would definitely read these in order. I have read the Jane Yellowrock series which I think also helps one to understand more of the world and characters. Plus it is just great reading. The Soulwood series is a spin-off from Jane Yellowrock and I love it just as much or more.
The world continues to develop and expand as we learn more about different species and magics. Things are changing for Unit Eighteen of PsyLED also. Rick is gone for most of this case, and Firewind is here and in charge. We learn much more about Firewind, his character, history and magic.
Nell is the heart of the story and she has so much growth and development here too. She is trying to become the guardian for Mud. Her pregnant sister, Esther, is also staying with her. I like how her relationship is now developing with her father and brothers now. She is still working to the best of her ability in her new job. Nell learns a bit more about her own abilities and origins, but I still want to know so much more.
Nell and Occam have also taken their relationship to another level. Along with that, it is public and they have a bit of PDA. This feels natural, I guess, but also a bit out of character in their professional world. Nell does a good job of being independent even within a relationship, though. I like how they handle this.
The case is confusing, of course. The team has a lot of work to save people and figure out why they are dying. Even PsyLED doesn’t know everything about different species and magic, so it is always fascinating and exciting. It can also be dangerous. Unfortunately, regular law enforcement is mostly uneducated, unhelpful and prejudiced.
I really enjoyed this case in the richly developed world and characters. I am curious to see how Nell manages all the changes both personally and professionally. And I definitely want to know more about the magical world, as well as Nell’s personal abilities.
“Was someone impersonating them on the phone?”
“The band members insist not. They say it was Stella and she sounded fine, which, if correct, means extremely accelerated decomp.”
Which provided one small reason why a PsyLED special agent might have been called in, but there were now three on the premises.
Occam continued. “Within seconds after her crew called the police, Stella’s personal assistant, Monica Belcher, arrived and opened a shipping box of new tour T-shirts. She fell, dead when she hit the floor. She was still holding a wad of the new shirts. The bass player and the drummer ran to her but started feeling sick and the band and roadies evacuated the basement and called nine-one-one again to request paramedics. Local PD, Sheriff Jackett, and Tennessee FBI were all here in less than twenty minutes, and medic units from Nashville in thirty.”
That was fast, even for murder. “Fame has its benefits,” I said, hearing unfamiliar sarcasm in my tone. I wondered if my derision was a remnant of kitchen-envy. Or maybe farm-envy. Or maybe just pure old envy-envy.
“By the time the first LEOs and medics got here, Belcher’s arm—holding the shirts—was showing signs of rapidly advancing necrosis. It looks as if her flesh is rotting in time-lapse photography. Faster even than Stella Mae and Verna Upton.”
“Why was someone opening a box of T-shirts when her boss was dead at a crime scene?”
“They say Monica Belcher was one of those people who can’t sit still, always had to be doing something. She freaked out when they found the bodies and she started opening and storing gear in a frenzy. There may be more to it. We’re still in the early stages of questioning. They’re all pretty shook up.”
“And the bodies are all three necrosing at an accelerated rate,” I said, just to be clear.
“Yup. And listen to you talking cop-speak, Special Agent No-Longer-a-Probie Ingram.”
I chuckled quietly, as he surely intended. I wasn’t a probationary agent anymore, but since some of my time in the unit was spent as a tree, I was still a rookie. The more experienced unit members still babied and teased me. I teased back, “What more you got to tell me, Special Agent Cat-Man?”
“Only that I’d like nothing better than a beer in that hammock out back, but that’s just me.” Occam’s lips lifted on one side, his still-scarred face pulling down on the other, and his one good blonde eyebrow waggled up and down. “It’s a two-person hammock,” he added.
“Uh-huh. The case, please?” I said, sounding all starchy.
Occam went on. “Yeah. All three bodies are decomping abnormally fast. So far they only got the housekeeper out of here and she had to go in a cooler. They scooped her up with shovels and spoons.”
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