Book Review: Tricks of the Trade by Laura Anne Gilman

Tricks of the Trade
Laura Anne Gilman
Luna, November 2011
ISBN 978-0-373-80331-6
Trade Paperback

Who keeps the Cosa Nostradamus on the up-and-up, so to speak, when it comes to criminal events? Bonnie Torres and her colleagues in an elite crime-fighting unit, the PUPI—Private, Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations—are dedicated to looking for the truth in magic-related crimes. Created by Ian Stosser and his partner, Ben Venec, PUPI is all about investigating crimes involving the Cosa Nostradamus, the community of magical beings, both human Talent and fatae, supernatural creatures. Talent and fatae coexist fairly peacably with each other and with Nulls, those unfortunate humans who have no magical abilitites, but crimes do occur and our little band of Talent is frequently called in to find out the facts, the who, where, why and how. Then it’s up to the Cosa to deal with those facts.

Two investigations are on deck at the moment—a dead body and a theft. The dead body happens to be very non-human but clearly a murder and the theft is of a pair of seemingly innocuous articles after a home break-in that resulted in astonishing damage.  Why did someone want the creature dead and what happened to the pocket watch and glass dagger? To make things even more difficult, why is a mischievous imp called the Roblin stalking Bonnie?

I have struggled to write this review but not for the usual “try to find something nice to say” reason. No, my problem has been that there is so much I loved about this book that I could easily get carried away and tell too much. What I will say is that I’m in awe of Ms. Gilman for her inventive mind, from all the different species of fatae to the properties and uses of current to the Merge going on between Bonnie and Ben to the vexations caused by a playful imp who brings new meaning to Murphy’s Law to…well, you get the picture. After all, how can you resist a well-to-do Great Worm known as Madame who appreciates roses or a Wookie-like bodyguard named Bobo?

Suffice it to say, I love this book for its humor, the mysteries, the hint of romance, the sheer creativity. I’ve known of Ms. Gilman‘s work for years—she was quite popular in my bookstore—but this is the first time I’ve tried her and I can hardly wait to go back and start at the beginning of this wonderful series and the Retrievers series set in the same universe.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2012.