It says something when your three hundred page urban fantasy novel from 1989 has an afterword that is mostly a bibliography and a “please don’t kill me for taking artistic liberties after researching a culture not my own for a work of fiction” note. This is also the book that allowed me to stun my contemporary fiction teacher with the fact that I already knew what a Norse blood eagle was. Not that this information has anything to do with the plot.
The case is known as the “Texas Ripper” because we’ve gone from NYC to Dallas. And because Di is now trying to help her old college buddy Detective Mark Valdez track down the one or more people who have been killing people three days in a row every twenty days or so. The book starts in January and ends in March, if that gives you any idea of how long this goes on, and how the ante keeps getting upped gradually.
In Children of the Night, Di’s college days are mentioned but not in any great detail. Burning Water not only introduces Mark, it explains how he met her after being recruited by some drunk friends wanting to try a summoning spell. She saved his life, he ended up getting dragged into her Spook Squad. Think similar to Scooby Doo with real magic, higher stakes, and many fewer comments about meddling kids.
Between the Diana Tregarde books and a certain Valdemar short story, I deeply suspect that Lackey has a thing for Scooby Doo. Probably nostalgia at this point, but I have noticed her penchant for mysteries pop up now and again. But really, isn’t any good plot a mystery in some way? You don’t want readers to be able to predict every step of the way, but you do want to throw some clues that they may or may not be clever enough to pick up on.
The main difference I can see between the Diana Tregarde books and more conventional mysteries I’ve read is that Lackey treats her novels as stories first and mysteries second. That she’ll give us a view into one of the villains’ heads, though it’s limited in comparison to the heroes. In the case of this particular book, we never get a look inside the titular character’s head. But we do get peeks into some of the secondary characters around them.
In more “standard” mysteries, I seem to recall that we tend not to get more than the protagonist’s view point, and must figure out the solution using only the clues that character can find. Only when we get the explanation at the end can we confirm our guess. In contrast, you can figure out very early on who’s the bad guy and know what’s generally going on on both sides in Burning Water, though specifics will probably elude you if you’re not as familiar with certain Native American cultures prior to reading.
Regardless, I’ve always enjoyed any story with Diana Tregarde, and if you’re unfamiliar with this particular set of Lackey’s books, you should probably give them a shot.