This is the second in the Beka Cooper series. Beka is now a full dog and having problems finding a partner she can work with. She ends up with a scent hound named Achoo. There are riots in the city because the grain crops have been bad and someone is counterfeiting the silver money. Cooper and Goodwin are assigned to Port Caynne to find out who is the colemonger. Beka becomes involved with a new guy named Dale who is a bit of a rascal, but no Rosto. They have run-ins with Pearl Skinner the Rogue of Port Caynne, who is a nasty piece of work. Beka ends up on the run from both Pearl and the dogs by the end of the book. She has to solve the mystery before she gets caught and hope her backup arrives in time.
I thoroughly enjoy Tamora Pierce’s works. The Beka Cooper books are a lot more detailed and expansive than her earlier works. I like the fact that she has added more story, but this one felt a little too long. There was tons of stuff going on from the bread riots to Beka’s lack of partners to new friends to the colemongers. Listening to a book instead of reading it also highlights all the things that you can skip over when reading. There is a lot of extraneous detail about Beka’s every move and thought in the book that got a bit tedious. I also think the journal format didn’t work quite as well as it does in other books. There were a couple of times where Beka is telling her story and she just decides she is tired so she quits and starts again another day. It was pretty annoying to have the narrative interrupted like that.
My other problems were with the narrative itself. In the first book, the ghosts who are carried on pigeons can barely communicate. They speak in fragments, can’t tell their stories and don’t identify themselves. In this book, the dead can have complete conversations with Beka and tell her all kinds of things she needs to know. There is no explanation for the difference. The ghosts give Beka the information she needs to solve the case, which means she couldn’t have found it anywhere else. I think it is a weakness in the storytelling to have to rely on that kind of information.
I think one of Pierce’s strengths is the diversity of characters that she writes about. There are a wide range of people in her books and she almost always includes some kind of homosexual character. In this book it is a transgender character named Ocha and a gay man named Nestor. I think it is important to show these characters in books and to make the reader realize that there is nothing wrong with them or their sexuality or lifestyle. Pierce does a great job of incorporating these characters into her stories and I applaud her for that.
I do wish I liked this book better. I just thought the story dragged a lot and there was a heavy reliance on supernatural information instead of police work. I think it was good for Beka to have a relationship with Dale, but he is no Rosto. I am not sure the relationship was necessary for the story though it did give Beka a chance to struggle with her feelings for Dale and her investigation. Overall this book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t my favorite.