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Title: The Long Chain (The Arcane Casebook Volume III)

Publisher/Author: Dan Willis

Pages: 316pp

Price: $14.99 / $4.99

The Hook: Alex Lockerby is a private detective in 1930s New York City. He is also a runewright, able to craft complex spells using unique arrangements of sigils and glyphs. In the magical hierarchy, runewrights are at the bottom -- but Alex doesn't care. He has his work, his magic, his friends, and his alchemist girlfriend, Jessica. And it looks like all of the different threads of his life are being woven together: a strange, unmoveable fog has enveloped the city; someone is kidnapping alchemists, putting Jessica in danger; and a missing scientist whom Alex tracks down has no memory of who took him or why .... It all ties together somehow, and Alex needs to solve the mystery before it's too late, or New York City -- and his loved ones -- will pay the price ....

The Analysis: The third book in The Arcane Casebook series, The Long Chain picks up not long after Ghost of a Chance. I love how the relationships between the characters (even secondary characters) have continued to evolve and how the ramifications of previous events continue to unfold. Alex, for example, is dying. He knows he is dying, and that there is nothing to be done about it. Yet he refuses to fall into self-pity, or to sit back and peacefully enjoy his remaining days. No, he continues to help people, to hone his craft, and to do whatever he has to do to save New York.

The magic in The Arcane Casebook series is pretty darn cool. There are three kinds of magic users: sorcerers, alchemists, and runewrights. Sorcerers are at the top, so powerful that they can live for centuries, teleport across vast distances, and pull objects out of thin air. Alchemists brew complicated potions out of both common and rare materials which can do everything from heal injuries to cure diseases to alter a person's appearance. And while runewrights often employ many of the same materials as alchemists, their magic is temporary: the rune is drawn, the paper it is on is set aflame, and the rune does its stuff -- and then poof. As such, while rune magic can be very powerful when done correctly, it tends to be used for quick, small necessities: repairing torn and dirty clothes, finding lost people or objects, and so on. It is also limited by distance and constrained by water -- well, supposedly.

That was one of most interesting developments in The Long Chain. The reader, along with Alex, begins to realize that there is a lot more to rune magic than most people realize.

The Verdict: This is an excellent addition to The Arcane Casebook series. The characters are well-drawn, the mystery kept me hooked, and the resolution had a number of twists that took me by surprise. I look forward to the next volume as the characters' relationships continue to evolve, Alex undertakes his new runic studies, there are more mysteries to solve, and ... sorry, no spoilers, but Bad Things are definitely afoot.

Highly recommended to fans of Ilona Andrews, Clara Coulson, Jolene Dawe, Diana Pharaoh Francis, and Caitlin Kittredge, but the books should be read in order.