Mark Charan Newton, Drakenfeld

A locked room murder-mystery involving a king’s dead sister.

Lucan Drakenfeld is a Sun Chamber officer in the Royal Vispasian Union, a federation of kingdoms which looks and acts a lot like a cross between the European Union and the Roman Empire. The Sun Chamber is charged with investigating crime and enforcing the law across the Union, although it is never quite specified to whom the Chamber answers, except itself. (An oversight which left me with a niggling irritation once it became clear that Drakenfeld was going to operate in rarefied political circles: where does his authority come from and why does everyone accept it as legitimate?) Summoned home after his father’s unexpected death – ruled natural causes, but Drakenfeld comes to suspect there’s more to the matter – Drakenfeld and his bodyguard/friend Leana end up investigating the murder of the king’s sister.

Complicated as it first appears, it turns out to be even more complicated by the end.

Newton is no prose stylist, which leads to the characters here coming across a little flat. The resolution of the mystery, too, feels as though it comes a bit from out of the blue. On the other hand, I do like mysteries, Newton’s worldbuilding is plenty interesting, and it’s quite a relief to have a main character who doesn’t enjoy (and isn’t particularly good at) the personal application of violence. I look forward to seeing a sequel. Or, preferably, several.