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Dance of the Assassins: The Devil's Dances Trilogy    by Herve Jubert order for
Dance of the Assassins
by Herve Jubert
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Herve Jubert has created a world away from the mainland, where one can be a tenant or a tourist in Historical Cities, including London in the 19th century, Paris, and Venice in the 17th century. In some, tourists outnumber tenants. The cities are creations of mysterious Count Antonio Palladio. Facades represent buildings and scenes are changed every other day. Tourists wear garments of the period, and modern methods of criminal investigation are prohibited. Such being the case, Major Gruber, head of the Criminal Investigation Department, engages Roberta Morgenstern and Clement Martineau to inquire into the sadistic Jack-the-Ripper-style murder of thirty-two year old Mary Graham in London's Docklands Bay. The perpetrator called his victim Annie Chapman before he killed her.

Although the investigation team uses old school methods, they are unusual. Roberta is a witch. She graduated from the College of Sorcery, is adept at conjuring spells (especially in Latin), has a mynah bird to answer her phone, and a telepathic hedgehog named Friedrich Hans Gustafson. The courageous, lovable poppet is sometimes disguised as a tennis ball! Sergeant Martineau is assigned to the Contracts Section of the Ministry of Security, and anxious to climb the ladder to criminal investigation. Roberta and Clement contact Walter Nathan Simmons, whose security headquarters are in the Tower of London. Simmons brings the team to view the body. Roberta removes the victim's eyelashes to conjure a spell, allowing her to see the murder through Mary's eyes.

Morgenstern and Martineau are invited to meet Count Palladio for lunch. Roberta finds something oddly familiar about the Count, who resembles one of her professors at the College of Sorcery. As well as London, Morgenstern and Martineau travel to the Historical Cities of Paris and Venice, and eventually search for Mexico's famed Montuzema. Eleazar Strudel is the landlord of the Two Salamanders at the centre of the historic Old Town, frequented by magicians, witches, and herbalists. He informs his friend Roberta that a load of powdered moles was delivered to Dame Guibaude, a historical figure executed at the stake for poisoning her victims. With the aid of the Romanies family, the investigators search out an assembly of the Black Mass, who kidnapped one of the Romany children to sacrifice to Satan, at the Killers Quadrille, and the Dance of the Assassins.

Don't let the first pages fool you ... this is an extraordinary, in-depth read for teens and adults. You can't help but love the team of Morgenstern and Martineau. I enjoyed the author's injection of humor, as in one meeting of the sleuths, when Clement says to Roberta, 'Forsooth, then 'tis true - the ripper was an astral twin? ... Tell me, prithee, how can that be?' Roberta responds, 'Martineau, this is just you and me. In private. So forget the forsoothery and talk normally'. Also, Roberta's Norwegian spells for curing drunkenness caused me many chuckles. One exceptional dramatic composition is Jubert's account of the mystery of Palladio - who he is, how he came to be, defined in a signed statement by Napoleon Bonaparte, including a court manuscript of Palladio's trial for past murder.

Herve Jubert offers charismatic characters, a fascinating plot, descriptive imagery, and a unique blend of modern and mystic methods, with an unexpected ending. My only problem with the trilogy is that there's a waiting period before volume two and three are published!

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