Cool Things: Master of Plagues

If you’re not reading E.L. Tettensor‘s Nicholas Lenoir novels you’re really, really missing out.

In her first novel Tettensor introduced us to Lenoir, a tired old detective who spent a good chunk of his adult life in terror of an otherworldly creature that pursued him for crimes he barely understood. Now, with his peace made to the higher powers, Lenoir has to try and find a new purpose to a life he long though forfeit. His passion for his work has returned, his brilliance, once shaded by apathy, now shines all the brighter and things are generally going well for him.

And then the plague breaks out.

Normally this wouldn’t be the territory of the Kennian Metropolitan Police but some of the doctors working to contain the plague have become convinced that it was started on purpose and that… well, that most definitely is a crime. Problem is, even if they catch the people responsible Lenoir and his fellow hounds won’t be any closer to actually stopping the plague.

Or will they?

Master of Plagues is a wonderful progression from Tettensor’s first Lenoir novel. It changes the game in a number of ways – supernatural elements in this yarn are much less pronounced, although one paranormal character from the first book returns. Lenoir is up against criminals with totally mundane motives this time, even if their methods are spectacularly unusual, and he’s not looking over his shoulder for specters or fiends any more either, making the threat of death by misadventure or disease somehow more intimidating.

What’s more, Lenoir now has to juggle his desire to see criminals brought to justice with his desire to see the suffering innocent brought relief. He’s trying to find a cure as well as catch a mass murderer and every step he takes in one direction seems to take him further from the other goal. Lenior’s trying to reconcile this quandary gives us great insight into his character and motivations.

On top of that, there’s a new dynamic between Lenoir and his Sergeant, Bran Kody. Kody is ambitious and worked with Lenoir to learn how he solved cases. Kody’s goal was to move up the ranks as quickly as possible. He didn’t really like the apathetic Inspector Lenoir, even if he did respect his superior’s brilliance. But now, with Lenoir more invested in what’s going on around him, Kody is starting to see the foundation of a good man emerging from the stagnant soul that once was Nicholas Lenoir, and, for his part, Lenoir is starting to value Kody’s drive and goals as well. The pressure the plague puts on both really brings out the changes as they happen.

The story itself is well written, well paced and suspenseful. There’s a real mastermind at work here, scheming for their own profit at the expense of others using a scheme that is as brilliant in it’s simplicity as it is chilling in it’s callousness. Lenoir’s (and really the whole culture’s) unfamiliarity with disease and the unusual angle the criminals are exploiting make it no surprise the police don’t catch on faster making it a story uniquely suited to Tettensor’s world as well.

Master of Plagues is a well written story, perfectly suited to its characters and its world and offering deep and satisfying insights into the people that populate it. What are you waiting for? Go read it now!

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