Have you read this book?
This is a more-than-usually-collaborative collaboration. It takes place in Lamut, a town in Feist’s Midkemia (location of his Riftwar series) around the time of the hiatus between the two halves of “Magician”. However the three main characters, Pirojil, Durine and Kethol, are recycled from Rosenberg’s “Not Exactly The Three Musketeers”. I don’t mean they traveled by Rift or whatever. They were, to use Feist’s word, “cloned” in the Riftwar universe. Why? Couldn’t they just have changed their names, dyed their hair…?
Before outlining the story, I think it is important to say what the book is NOT about. It doesn’t relate any previously untold tale about the Riftwar itself: the action covers only a few days, and takes place in winter when large-scale fighting isn’t possible. Barring a little namedropping, it doesn’t feature any important characters from the other books. Nor are any new insights provided into the universe: the action is all local, magic barely features, and the gods are invoked only in swearing.
So don’t get the book in order to learn more about Pug et al. and their world. If anything I found my prior knowledge of these detracted from my enjoyment of the story: I kept expecting a Tsurani attack, or Borric to arrive and take over.
In fact this book is not really part of the Riftwar series at all, it just takes place there. It seems to be a detective story, though it takes 250 pages to get round to it. The three roguish protagonists are mercenaries employed to fight the Tsurani.
One of the local barons has been subject to possible murder attempts, and since our heroes have no local loyalties to make them likely perpetrators, they get the job of protecting him. For most of the book the story just follows them around, getting more and more involved in local politics. Then the eponymous murder occurs, and they are landed with the task of finding the murderer.
So how does the book rate as detective fiction? Considering that the detectives are actually mercenary soldiers with little ability and less interest in detection, and that they have only 60 pages left to perform in, you won’t be surprised that the answer is “Not highly”.
However I wonder if the authors will mind that verdict. The way the culprit and motive are telegraphed early in the book and the method of the crime is made blatantly obvious to all but the participants, makes it seem that they are not trying too hard; and the grand climax where the Great Detective confronts all the possible perpetrators in the drawing room has more than a hint of parody. So don’t get the book as a detective story either.
Then why read the book at all? Partly as entertainment. Though well below both authors’ best, the pages keep turning readily enough, and there’s a bit of a plot twist at the end. I suspect however that the book is really intended as a character study, mainly of the three mercenaries who come over as a strange mix of knight and knave. They happily steal and loot, and appear to be the sort of people who give dark alleys a bad reputation.
On the other hand, they are loyal to one another, and (like honest politicians) once employed they stay bought, performing to the best of their abilities. I have to say that I didn’t feel this dichotomy to have been properly resolved; but I haven’t yet read the Rosenberg books in which the originals feature (they’re in my in-tray) and I dare say that will help.
In summary, this book is better than the other Riftwar Legend collaboration and less frenetic than the Riftwar Legacy series. Although not a patch on the original trilogy, it’s certainly worth a read.