Death by Silver by Amy Griswold and Melissa Scott (Julian Lynes and Ned Mathey #1)
His practice newly established, metaphysician Ned Mathey can't afford to turn away any clients. But the latest Londoner to seek Ned's magical aid gives him pause: Mr Edgar Nevett, an arrogant banker, is the father of the bully who made Ned's life hell at boarding school. Nevertheless, Ned accepts the commission to ensure the Nevett family silver bears no ancient or modern curses, and then prepares to banish the Nevett family to unpleasant memory again. Until Edgar Nevett is killed by an enchanted silver candlestick-one of the pieces Ned declared magically harmless. Calling on his old school friend Julian Lynes-private detective and another victim of the younger Nevett-Ned races to solve the murder, clear the stain on his professional reputation, and lay to rest the ghosts of his past. Assisted by Ned's able secretary Miss Frost, who has unexpected metaphysical skills of her own, Ned and Julian explore London's criminal underworld and sodomitical demimonde, uncover secrets and scandals, confront the unexpected murderer and the mysteries of their own relationship. In the Lambda Literary Award winning Death by Silver veteran authors Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold introduce a Victorian London where magic works, influencing every aspect of civilized life, and two very appealing detectives.
COVER ART: Inkspiral Design
PUBLISHER: Queen of Swords Press
YEAR: 2023 (originally published 2013)
LENGTH: 352 pages
GENRE: Fantasy, Mystery
Queer Rep Summary: Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Main Character(s), Closeted Main Character(s).
*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.
Ned and Julian went to a boarding school as teenagers, where they were bullied and tormented by the prefects, particularly Victor Nevett. Now adults, they find themselves in the strange position of trying to prove that this thoroughly detestable person didn't kill his own father. Throughout the present day narrative are shorter sections, showing what Ned and Julian went through in school. These sections help to frame their current moral quandary as something more viscerally understandable. They’re trying to find the real murderer, not to help Victor or avenge his father, but because Ned doesn’t want the real murderer to get away with it. There’s an awareness of class issues and the sexism built into their society, the way concerns of propriety get in the way without actually addressing the harms they’re meant to prevent.
Because Ned and Julian already are in a habit of physical intimacy when the book begins, the arc of their romance is more one of realizing that they like each other as people, not just as fuck buddies. They're parsing through whether they’re both willing to entangle their lives in ways that might draw looks towards two confirmed bachelors. Most intimate scenes fade to black or limit themselves to kissing, which is perfect for readers looking for gay romance with a minimum of sexual content.
I like Miss Frost, and in this stratified society where the book is set it could’ve been easy to not have any significant female characters. Instead, Miss Frost is competent and thorough, gradually appearing more as things progress. She seems poised to become more relevant in later books, and I'm looking forward to reading more with her.
The magic system is described in enough detail to give a sense of what it looks like for someone to work spells, but it’s not so strict as to invite disbelief when some detail is too specific. I enjoyed the murder mystery, it’s sufficiently twisty and interesting to keep me guessing all the way through, while still having an answer that makes sense and doesn’t require outside information to be able to put things together as the characters do. I also like the way that Ned keeps having to work on other cases for other clients in a way that fit his situation as someone who only recently took over a business. It’s just enough to make it feel like his job exists outside of this one case, while avoiding the generation of plot threads that go nowhere.
I thoroughly enjoyed this, and am excited for the sequel.
Graphic/Explicit CW for bullying, blood, violence, injury detail.
Moderate CW for grief, sexual content, classism, ableism, alcohol, drug use, emotional abuse, physical abuse, child abuse, medical content, murder, death.
Minor CW for sexual harassment, mental illness, forced institutionalization, fire, sexism, racism, slavery, suicide.