Mini-Reviews: The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle & MongrelsThe Mystery at Dunvegan Castle by T. L. Huchu
Series: Edinburgh Nights #3
Published by Tor Publishing Group on August 29, 2023
Genres: Fantasy, Msytery, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 240
Format: ARC
Source: Received from publisher

Duels, magic, and plenty of ghosts await in The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle, the third book of T. L. Huchu's USA Today bestselling Edinburgh Nights series.

Everyone’s favorite fifteen-year-old ghostalker, Ropa, arrives at the worldwide Society of Skeptical Enquirers’ biennial conference just in time to be tied into a mystery—a locked room mystery, if an entire creepy haunted castle on lockdown counts. One of the magical attendees has stolen a valuable magical scroll.

Caught between Qozmos, the high wizard of Ethiopian magic; the larger-than-life Lord Sashvindu Samarasinghe; England’s Sorcerer Royal; and Scotland’s own Edmund MacLeod, it’s up to Ropa (and Jomo and Priya) to sort through the dangerous secret politics and alliances to figure out what really happened. But she has a special tool—the many ghosts tied to the ancient, powerful castle.

Edinburgh Nights series:
Library of the Dead
Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments

The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

In the third outing of the Edinburgh Nights series, streetwise teenager Ropa Moyo has left the city on a wee work trip. Stuck wrangling attendees at the Society of Skeptical Inquirers’ annual conference, Ropa can hang while the magicians do their thing and enjoy the sights at Dunvegan Castle. 

Sike! Of course everything goes tits up – as Ropa  would say – and she has to catch a murderer and a thief before the conference closes. What’s a teenaged ghostalker to do? Well, clean up after all the puffed-up and self-important magicians, of course. Ropa Moyo is back in the game, ready to solve another mystery. It’s great fun to see how she makes use of her ability to speak with the dead to unearth new clues and crack the case. But Ropa’s not on her home turf this time and even the ghosts of Dunvegan seem strange…

As much as I’ve loved reading about Edinburgh’s underbelly, the change of scenery was a welcome one. Ropa’s under the watchful eye of her bureaucratic and snobbish Society overseers 24/7 at Dunvegan, and I could practically feel the tension. With her BFFs Priya and Jomo lending a hand, Ropa has to crack the case without being kicked out of Scottish magic’s most elit(ist) institution. But as she’s undermined and mistrusted at every turn, Ropa starts to wonder…is a position with the Society still what she wants? I was pleasantly surprised by the direction her character arc has taken, and I’m desperately hoping that a fourth book will be announced soon.

There’s certainly lots more of this world and T. L. Huchu’s ideas to be explored. Western racism and post-colonial ideas have always turned up in Ropa’s narration (must be all those audiobooks she listens to), but The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle marks the first time these ideas are at the core of the main plot. Although I can’t guess how, my prediction is that Ropa’s family history, her own future, and the evils of magical society are all linked. This book marks a tonal shift in the series that some readers may find unwelcome, but I for one am excited to see what will come next.

Mini-Reviews: The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle & MongrelsMongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
Published by HarperCollins on May 10, 2016
Genres: Horror
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

Nominated for both the Shirley Jackson and Bram Stoker Awards, and a Best of 2016 selection of and Book Riot, acclaimed horror writer Stephen Graham Jones' (The Only Good Indians and My Heart is a Chainsaw) Mongrels goes beyond your typical werewolf story to show a young boy, mired in poverty and always on the run, coming-of-age in a world that fears him and hates his family...but may just be more monstrous than he could ever be.

He was born an outsider, like the rest of his family. Poor yet resilient, he lives in the shadows with his aunt Libby and uncle Darren, folk who stubbornly make their way in a society that does not understand or want them. They are mongrels, mixed blood, neither this nor that. The boy at the center of Mongrels must decide if he belongs on the road with his aunt and uncle, or if he fits with the people on the other side of the tracks.

For ten years, he and his family have lived a life of late-night exits and narrow escapes—always on the move across the South to stay one step ahead of the law. But the time is drawing near when Darren and Libby will finally know if their nephew is like them or not. And the close calls they’ve been running from for so long are catching up fast now. Everything is about to change.

A compelling and fascinating journey, Mongrels alternates between past and present to create an unforgettable portrait of a boy trying to understand his family and his place in a complex and unforgiving world. A smart and innovative story— funny, bloody, raw, and real—told in a rhythmic voice full of heart, Mongrels is a deeply moving, sometimes grisly, novel that illuminates the challenges and tender joys of a life beyond the ordinary in a bold and imaginative new way.

Mongrels follows a young, unnamed narrator and his aunt and uncle, the last ones standing in a werewolf clan. But the narrator hasn’t yet turned, and with each passing year he remains human, his desperation grows.

Raised by his grudgingly-responsible aunt Libby and his larger-than-life Uncle Darren, the narrator is dying to be just like them. His whole world revolves around a sort of “philosophy of the wolf” that Darren uses to teach him some pretty rough life lessons. None of these characters are good people – they kill, they steal, and they lie their way through life. But somehow you end up rooting for them regardless.

I attribute that to Stephen Graham Jones’ writing, which is consistently excellent across all his projects. He knows how to write about messed up families with a lot of issues who still love the hell out of each other. They’re always saving each other from gnarly situations with very little concern for their own safety. Everything from abduction to arson to bear wrestling, this family will be there for one another. 

There’s something quite “trashy” about this werewolf family, which is clearly intentional. In some ways, this is a portrait of American poverty as much as it is a portrait of werewolves. Being a werewolf is far from glamorous. Living under the radar doesn’t lend itself well to upward mobility. They live in roach-infested trailers and dilapidated apartments where the fridge is always empty. They live short and brutal lives before their bodies break down under the pressure of the change. Frankly, it was dark and disturbing and quite gory, but I loved it.

My one gripe about the story is its unusual narrative structure. Primarily set over a decade-long period, every other chapter is a vignette-style flashback. These flashbacks are meant to flesh out the world of the werewolves, and they do that – but they also break up the pacing of the story. Not my favourite.

Overall though, highly recommended to horror fans. Readers who are sensitive to violence, blood, or dead dogs should proceed with caution.