A young man is dead in mysterious circumstances and a grieving father wants to know why. So he hires Felix, sometimes known as ‘the fox’ to look into the matter. As Felix re-traces the boy’s last days, he begins to uncover a conspiracy intent on overthrowing the current social order.
Murder In Absentia is on one level a private detective murder mystery with the main character hired to investigate a suspicious death. What makes this one different is, rather than the side streets of Los Angeles, the mystery takes place (mostly) in the city of Egretia, a fictional city combining elements of ancient Rome and a complex system of magic.
Felix is, for the most part, a decent man; unwilling to expose a client’s details if he can avoid it, yet willing to lie, cheat and use the little magic he knows to extract information. He also has his wounds, some of which resurface during the course of his investigations. Some of these are explained in full, some are given sufficient detail but still left vague enough in parts to allow for the reader to make their own impressions as to what happened.
The city itself is well researched and well detailed. Latin words and names are frequently used but they are rarely confusing; there is usually enough background information to understand what is being referred to.The locations and people are described in such a way as to leave the reader unable to differentiate between what is historically accurate and what is the author’s invention. The place feels real.
Very occasionally, it does feel like some details are being unnecessarily dwelt on but these are rare and some sections seem to drag but these are rare. Overall, it’s a very strong novel, with an intriguing central mystery and a main character that can definitely support more appearances.
Oh, and I was amused to see one of the characters named Aulus Paulinus and pleased to see from the notes that it was a deliberate reference.