The Conductors

Mariner. Mar. 2021. 432p. ISBN 9780358197058. pap. $15.99. ;. FANTASY
DEBUT Set at the end of the Civil War, this magical first novel follows Hetty and Benjy, runaways who ferry people to safety from slavecatchers, as well as solve crimes, often with the aid of celestial magic. Chapters alternate between Hetty and Benjy’s life in Philadelphia aiding people in finding lost loved ones, and Hetty’s journeys on the Underground Railroad, with Benjy in tow, to find her sister Esther. When an acquaintance whom they previously rescued from slavery is found dead in an alley, the novel turns into a murder mystery. Glover’s intricate writing succeeds in bringing Hetty and Benjy to life, and shines as members of their social circle become suspects. While later chapters are at times meandering, the story gains momentum as Hetty aims to uncover if this murder, and others that follow, is a coincidence or part of a pattern. Along the way, she discovers that Benjy has secrets of his own, as do several of her friends. Along with celestial magic, sorcery comes into play, often coming back to haunt Hetty and Benjy, especially at the suspenseful ending.
VERDICT Blending historical fantasy and mystery, this fast-paced debut with predominantly Black characters will engage fans eager for a combination of each.
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