cover image Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Mercedes Lackey, Mercedes Lackey. Baen Books, $22 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-671-87853-5

For the first half of this disappointing fourth entry in her Bardic Voices series (The Eagle & the Nightingales, etc.), Lackey mixes the conventions of fantasy with those of the police procedural. Poor street-musician girls in the town of Haldene are being mysteriously ripped asunder with a ritual dagger, and lonely, world-weary constable Tal Rufen loses his job by trying too hard to capture the killer behind the killers. Lackey then shifts into psychological thriller mode, as she enters the twisted mind of the maniac behind the mayhem. She also attempts to spice up a stale tale told through lengthy ruminations by highlighting the attraction between Rufen and High Bishop Ardis, head Justiciar of Kingsford, who is questioning her religious vocation. Lacking enough of the convincing details of setting and characterization needed to bring a quasi-medieval fantasy world to life, the novel, despite some neat melodramatic turns, may engage only the author's more dedicated fans. (Dec.)