Friday, May 30, 2014

Rogue Phoenix Press Presents: Jak Barley - Private Inquisitor by Dan Ehl


Jak Barley-Private Inquisitor by Dan Ehl
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As a private inquisitor, Jak Barley’s job is fairly mundane-finding errant debtors and missing property, or proving the unfaithfulness of roving spouses. It’s not a vocation that makes many friends.
Though a frequent patron of dark, wretched bars seldom visited by the more fastidious citizens of Duburoake, he still can be squeamish about some things – such as ghosts and rabid magicians.
Barley’s latest cases are just that more upsetting, dragging him into contact with sinister specters, malicious mages, irate harpies, creepy death deities and royal plots.
It will take all of his backstreets cunning to stay alive, as well as the help of alchemist Olmsted Aunderthorn, his half brother, who uses the latest metaphysical laboratory techniques in solving crimes.


The slow ride through the night was depressing. The bone-chilling dampness made me draw my canvas cape tighter. I was tired, cold, and bruised. The disheartening slaughter weighed heavily upon me. The alluring memory of the redheaded fortuneteller's warm nest of quilts made the venture seem all the more wretched.

"How did you guess I seek vengeance?" Mahvan had pulled her horse up next to me.

"Guessing had nothing to do with it," I replied halfhearted and by rote. "A trained private inquisitor reads subtle signs and cues as easily as if they were inked script on a grand bishop's vellum."

"Vague words to hide behind," she snapped.

I laughed at the words, the same I'd spoken to Lorenzo only hours before.

Mahvan must have thought I laughed at her, for her retort was laden with ire. "You find me humorous, Master Barley?"

I remembered her hidden weapons and the proficiency in which she dispatched an attacker. "No, my lady. Just an errant thought."

This time I would not relent to a beautiful face. Why the gods toy with me so, I do not know. Too many times I have lain out my well-crafted deductions, only to find I had reached the right revelation but by a wrong path.

"As with a stage illusionist, a private inquisitor seldom reveals his methods. Let us just say that I observe obvious signs an untrained eye will miss. Once explained, I'm afraid my deductions would suddenly plunge from the realm of wonder to a more mundane plane."

She remained silent and I wished I could view her face. Our discussion was lightening my heart, as it is often when speaking to a beautiful woman.

"You are of high birth," I explained, keeping to safe ground. "You have rid yourself only recently of jewelry, so speaks the light rings of skin about your fingers. Your speech also gives you away, as well as your obvious unease at the informality of being addressed by your bestowed name. Would you rather I call you mistress or lady?"

"You find me prissy?" she snapped.

I was relieved to have sidestepped her queries.

"I hardly think that word would describe a maiden who travels as a boyish follower of Dorga, carries a battery of hidden weapons, and uses those same arms with the skill of a Hoonnish assassin."

"Are you for hire?"

I grimaced. The last thing I wanted to do was reduce my status from fellow traveler to that of a common hireling.

She mistook my hesitancy. "I can pay you. I am not without resources, despite my current appearance."

"It is not that my lady..."

"Mahvan," she corrected.

"I, ah, have many commitments when we arrive at Stagsford. I had not thought to work. To take on a case now..."

"I see, please excuse me if I trouble you with my problems," she interrupted again, this time more coolly. "I should have realized you take not just any task."

"Why, no, er, yes. It is not..."

"And I am sure you have more important things to do than aid some helpless maiden in distress. I have heard private inquisitors are a reticent sort, made reserved by their unpleasant tasks."

"Well, that is not wholly true," I sputtered, wanting to defend my trade. "We private inquisitors are not without feelings..."

"You will help me as a friend then, Master... Jak?" she said with a voice groping for hope.


"Thank you. We will talk more of this tomorrow." She nudged her mount and dropped back with Eli and Chaatiguin.

This was a really fun book! It combined elements of Sword and Sorcery
Fantasy with elements of satire that made occasionally viscious fun...

G. L. Helm for Rogue's Angels    4 Angel Wings

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