Murder, mystery, and magic—the three M’s that fuel the fast-paced, suspenseful Dark Jenny (Eddie LaCrosse Novels), the third Eddie LaCrosse novel from talented author Alex Bledsoe. It’s the first Eddie LaCrosse novel I’ve read, but it succeeds very well as a stand-alone, which means you can enjoy it thoroughly without having to have read the first two to get background knowledge. Though I haven’t read the first two, The Sword-Edged Blonde and Burn Me Deadly, if they are at all close to being as good as Dark Jenny (Eddie LaCrosse Novels), they’ll be well worth reading. Bledsoe’s vampire novel, The Girls with Games of Blood, is one of the best vampire novels I’ve read in the past few years.
Eddie LaCrosse is a “sword-for-hire”—the equivalent of a “gun-for-hire” or mercenary soldier—who can be hired to solve cases “for twenty-five gold pieces a day, plus expenses.” In other words, he’s a Sam Spade sort in the days of knights and fair damsels in distress. An unexpected coffin delivery in the dead of winter has Eddie looking back to an earlier adventure in his life on the island kingdom of Grand Bruan. He finds himself wrongfully accused of the murder of one of the Knights of the Double Tarn while there trying to expose the marital infidelities of a noble for the noble’s wife. Unless he’s able to prove his innocence and discover the identity of the true murderer, he risks being executed for the crime.
Everybody in the kingdom loves their king, Marcus Drake, but most don’t feel the same about the queen, Jenny. She seems to have mellowed somewhat from her younger days, but many people still see a dark streak in her and believe her capable of anything if you cross her—possibly even murder. Did she poison the apple that killed the knight Samuel Herbert Patrice, or was she set up to take the fall for his death? Was the actual intended victim someone else, like the knight Thomas Gillian? If so, why?
It’s difficult to prove one’s innocence while manacled under the watchful guard of other Knights of the Double Tarn, but that’s just what Eddie must do if he wants to keep his head upon his shoulders. There’s the added problem of his swollen and injured hand, which he injures upon the jaw of despicable woman-battering knight Lord Dave Agravaine, who always hangs out with his two toadies, Vince Hoel and Aidan Cador. Agraviane gets his nose busted, but Eddie’s sword hand is put out of commission for awhile.
Dave is one of the few knights who seems to support the queen, yet another suspicious aspect of the whole case for Eddie. Are he and his toadies trying to prevent Eddie from discovering the truth about the murder? Are they possibly involved in it, or trying to protect the queen’s reputation?
Eddie’s investigation reveals that the poison came from somewhere outside the kingdom, and it’s one that has a relatively short shelf-life, so it had to have been brought to Grand Bruan from someone who traveled to the island kingdom fairly recently, with the intent to either kill Gillian, or frame the queen, or both. Or was it brought by order of Dark Jenny to be used to kill Gillian? If Jenny is behind the murder, is it because she wants to keep her rumored infidelity secret, or the fact that she is a moon priestess, whose like are supposed to be man-haters and who have been banished from the kingdom?
Dark Jenny is the perfect melding of the modern with the medieval, of the hard-boiled detective genre with the fantasy genre. Eddie LaCrosse proves that old-fashioned detective work and gathering clues together can still be enough to solve cases even without modern forensic technology—and can also be the grist for very entertaining novels.