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Good Guys
by Steven Brust
Tor, $25.99, 316 pages
Published: March 2018

This was a very confusing book, as I suspect it was meant to be. We have two contemporary  organizations ( with ancient histories) devoted to maintaining magic use, using the power of ley lines, preserving grimoires, magical artifacts, spells, etc. They broke off from each other during WWII (something to do with Franco). So one, simply called The Foundation (or the Spanish Foundation), is located in Madrid. The other, the Roma Vindices Mystici, is located in Rome. Fundamentally, they protect themselves from us mundanes by keeping their magical abilities under wraps and undiscovered. They are ostensibly on the same side: protect their wizards and sorcerers from detection. Use magic only for good.

In this story, some recently discovered magical artifacts have gone astray. And then, a string of murders by magical means is discovered by the Foundation so they get a strike team together consisting of Donovan, Susan, and Marci to discover what’s up with this. These three work wonderfully together and are terrific, distinctive characters with their own entertaining quirks and magical skills.

After they’ve investigated a few of the murders, the team begins to realize the Mystici are behind them. Killing is not either side’s modus operandi...creates too much attention. But because the murders are bizarre: a fake heart attack, a man killed by “the bends,” another killed when the water in their pool turns to ice to suffocate them (melting quickly, of course, before the authorities get there) the mundane world has no idea these are murders by magic.  The best thing about this, as we wade through events, is who is doing what to whom...and more importantly - why.

The story gets murkier as you’re always puzzling out: are these murders actually justified, in a twisted way? And if so, who is heading up their execution? Are they over-stepping the bounds they’ve given themselves regarding keeping the magic from being used violently?  Who indeed are the good guys and who are the bad? The deeper Brust goes into motivations the more muddy they become. Until the end, where most of the motivations are revealed, thankfully.

But not all.

The dialogue here is terrific, and the story is very clever, needless to say.  The whodunnit becomes more of which side is authorizing it, who’s the mole in the Foundation and where do the trails lead.

Very fun, if a bit confusing, read ~~ Sue Martin

For other titles by Steven Brust click here

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