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Three Parts Dead    by Max Gladstone order for
Three Parts Dead
by Max Gladstone
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's something very different in the genre from Max Gladstone - Three Parts Dead is an urban fantasy Damages. It's set in a well realized world in which gods empower cities, but where human mages have also accumulated great powers since the God Wars.

We meet the book's heroine, Tara Abernathy, after she's (literally) been booted out of magic school, and is doing her best to survive the long fall to Earth. Why was she expelled from the Hidden Schools? She spoke out against powerful professor Denovo - she and readers meet him again later in the story. Just before the fall, Tara was handed a job offer, from Elayne Kevarian, a partner with one of the world's most prestigious necromantic firms. She takes the job and she and Elayne head to Alt Coulumb.

Another key player is Novice Technician Abelard. He serves the Lord of Flame, Kos Everburning, who keeps the great city of Alt Coulumb running. Abelard is on duty when it's discovered that Kos is dead. This chain smoker is assigned to assist Tara, whose first task is to look into the murder of Judge Cabot. The chief suspect is Shale, one of a Flight of gargoyles. Lacking time to interview him before the city's Blacksuits (Agents of Justice) get their hand on him, Tara steals his face.

Tara and Abelard work to discover what killed Kos, in preparation for the legal case. Others involved are vampire sea Captain Pelham and Cat, a female Blacksuit (friend of Abelard's) addicted to vampiric leeching and assigned to protect Tara. Soon, an unprepared Tara finds herself pitted against professor Denovo in court. It's an unequal contest but Tara holds her own. She solves the murder mystery, wins the case, defeats the villain, and discovers how manipulative her boss really is.

I particularly enjoyed watching the author turn a lit cigarette into an effective weapon for Novice Technician Abelard, and very much hope that Three Parts Dead is the first in a series - I'd like to spend more time with Tara Abernathy.

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