by E. L. Tettensor
In Darkwalker, debut novelist E. L. Tettensor brings us a solid introduction to the character of Inspector Nicolas Lenoir and the fantasy world he inhabits. Based on the front cover subtitle: A Nicholas Lenoir Novel, I expect that there are more volumes forthcoming. However, this initial offering can certainly be read and enjoyed on its own, as it is a complete story with only a few unresolved threads at the end.
At first glance, the book appears to follow the formula of many detective novels, being told from the point-of-view of the hard-working but green sidekick, Sergeant Bran Kody. A child’s corpse has been stolen from a village graveyard, but the Inspector quickly deduces that there are insufficient clues to track down the missing body.
Through the first few chapters, it becomes apparent that while Sergeant Kody admires Inspector Lenoir’s intellect, this attitude is not reciprocated. The Inspector is both arrogant and uncaring, and this jaded attitude frustrates his young assistant. However, author Tettensor deftly switches the viewpoint to show us a glimpse of humanity in the man. Haunted by events of the past, the once legendary Inspector spends his evenings falling into an alcoholic stupor. While he still garners some respect with the rest of the Metropolitan Police, his best days may be behind him.
A second child’s corpse is stolen, but this still does little to pique Lenoir’s interest. He asks questions and travels to the village where this occurred, as his job requires, but finds no substantial leads. While Sergeant Kody continues to work on the case, the Inspector visits Lady Zera’s salon and socializes with the upper class of the city of Kennian until late at night. The Inspector dreads to sleep because he has nightmares of the Darkwalker, a spirit with absinthe green eyes that nearly killed him a decade ago and may still pursue him.
As a favor to Lady Zera, Inspector Lenoir tries to discover the source of some unpleasant rumors about the hostess. When he checks in with Zach, a street urchin who serves as one of his informants, Lenoir learns that the boy disappeared with a stranger earlier that day. With Zach being of the same age as the missing corpses, the Inspector deduces that there may be a connection between the stolen bodies and Zach’s abduction. With the boy’s life at risk, he feels guilty for involving the kid and is finally inspired to take action.
Through the rest of the novel, the story explores the Adali, an outcast and migrant race shunned by many in the Five Villages, the nobility of Kennian, and necromancy and vengeance. The plot kept me interested, and there was real danger to the characters, as well as intriguing magic.
Overall, this was a quick and easy read, with an unexpected and satisfying conclusion. In her first novel, E. L. Tettensor has crafted a solid blend of detective fiction and fantasy, and the best thing about it was that was fun to read.