Soul Song: Dirk & Steele, Book 6) is another book in Marjorie Liu's “Dirk & Steele Detective Agency” series, although in this story the agency has a background role, and it isn't necessary to have read any of the other novels in this series to understand Soul Song: Dirk & Steele, Book 6).
Kitala Bell is a musician, a violinist with virtuoso talent who travels widely giving concerts. However, she has another - and secret - talent, one which causes her great distress: she is often able to foresee the way people will die if they are murdered. Because of this, she has few friends and lives a lonely life. She has previously experimented with telling people that she foresees their death, but it has never worked out well for her so she has stopped. When performing at a concert, she foresees the terrible death of a woman in the audience and for some reason decides, after the concert, to find the woman and tell her about it. As she starts to explain, the woman's companion is shot and killed. Kitala and the woman, Alice, flee but are eventually captured and separated.
Kitala is unexpectedly rescued by a strange man who seems to have magical abilities with his singing voice. As soon as he rescues her, though, he warns her that he is trying to kill her and that she has to run far away from him. Being a typical contrary heroine of a romance novel, she instead decides she must find Alice and rescue her. She has one small lead, a business card for a youth shelter, and decides to start there.
The man, M'cal, is under a curse from a witch which requires him to “take the souls” of men and women for her to feed on. He is bound to her by a magical bracelet, which means she can compel him to do things against his will, such as the killing. He is afraid that she will compel him to kill Kitala if he sees her again so tries to persuade her to go away. But of course she doesn't, and they end up working together, knowing that at any time the witch may compel M'cal to kill Kitala.
Kitala learns an awful lot of new stuff about the world in the space of about 48 hours. She always knew she was different because of her ability to see people's deaths and because her Grandmother knew some strange things, but as events unfold she discovers that M'cal isn't a man but originally came from the sea. She also discovers there are other strange creatures that she thought were just myths. However, she, M'cal and some of the shapeshifters from the Dirk & Steele agency soon realize that there is something seriously dangerous looming on the horizon, and the missing Alice may be the key to stopping it. M'cal has to deal with his past as a hostage to the witch, and Kitala has to learn to use some of the music and magic within her to help defeat the evil they face.
There is romance in this story, although it's not the main focus of the plot. The book is interesting in that you never quite know what's happening, you can't tell what the future holds for the characters, and it's difficult to be sure quite what they are fighting against. Some aspects of the plot are perhaps a little too far-fetched, and M'cal's compulsion to kill Kitala is most conveniently shelved at times to suit the story. It's an original story in a genre which is often repetitive, a complex world in which the characters move, and the story is well-written and engaging, but overall it isn't an entirely satisfying read.