Wednesday , June 19 2024
The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle

Book Review: ‘The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle’ by T. L. Huchu

The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle

The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle is the third book in T.L Huchu’s “Nights of Edinburgh” series. However, instead of wandering the streets of Edinburgh and investigating magical misdeeds and helping ghosts to their rest, Ropa Mayo, and what seems like the entire membership of the Society of Sceptical Enquirers, Scotland’s premier magical professional body, and the nation’s four major schools of magic, are meeting on the Isle of Sky for an annual conference.

In the previous two books of the series (The Library of the Dead and Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments) we saw how Ropa had been taken on as an unpaid intern under the sponsorship of the head of the Society, Sir Ian Callander. While she is still being treated like a go-for by Frances Cockburn, who as Director of Membership Services for the Society is the one who decides whether Ropa can obtain full membership, as Callander’s protégée she is given access to the high and mighty of thecoference at their nightly diners.

One of the reasons the great and good of Scottish magic have gathered for this year’s conference is to welcome a visitor from Ethiopia. Qozmos, The Grand Debtera of Abyssinia, has brought a sacred scroll dating back to the times of Solomon for Scottish wizards to study. However, as the scroll is being carried to a safe place on the grounds, the two people escorting it are attacked. One of them is murdered, the other knocked out, and the scroll is stolen.

While Ropa attempts to chase down the culprit, with the aid Qozmos’ assistant, he or she manages to elude them. But they won’t get far as Callander casts a spell which effectively seals off the castle from the outside world, trapping the thief and the killer in with all the conference attendees.

As Ropa is the only one who seems actually capable of handling an investigation of this sort; based on her street smarts, intelligence and previous experience in these matters, she’s given the job of finding out who committed both crimes. Thankfully she’s not completely on her own as her close friends from the previous books, Jomo Maige and Priya Kapoor, are both in attendance and can at least provide moral support if nothing else.

However, one thing even Ropa can’t overcome is the arrogance and soI-distant attitudes of Scotland’s magic wielders. The majority of them are too wrapped up in their petty jealousies and personal agendas to even stoop to noticing one of their own has been murdered. Only when something directly impacts upon their ability to serve themselves – like the spell Callender has cast killing all cell phone service – can they stir themselves to comment.

While Hucho has done a masterful job of recreating an old school locked room – well in this case castle grounds – mystery, even better is the post – Catastrophe Scotland he’s created. What exactly these apocalyptic events were is never certain, but we do know it led to the English exerting even tighter control over the Scots – down to and including Magic.

One of the weekend’s unexpected guests, one who manages to put everyone’s teeth on edge and stir the pot to make old rivalries simmer, is none other than England’s Sorcerer Royal come to lord it over his Scottish subjects. While maybe not at the forefront of the action his presence is ever lurking in the background.

Ropa remains the heart of The Mystery at Dunvegan Castles as she did in the previous books. Which is a good thing. Our purple dread-locked hero from the wrong side of the tracks – if there were any tracks in post Catastrophe Edinburgh – remains one of the best characters to grace the pages of a post apocalyptic fantasy novel. Tough and savvy, the petty thief turned ghost talker slash interning magician is refreshingly human in her flaws and inspiring in her complete contempt for authority. 

You treat her well and she repays you with eternal loyalty. Mess with her and hers and she will take you down in any way she can. As the villains in The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle discover even if you’re from the highest echelons of society, once Ropa is on the case no one is above the law.

The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle is as fine a piece of fantasy writing as you’ll ever read. Filled with fascinating characters and a hero who should be every young woman’s role model, it is a great mystery and wonderful story. Hopefully this isn’t the end of Ropa Mayo’s giving the inverted V to the toffs of Scottish magic.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to Qantara.de and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

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