Tamara Siler Jones

Books: Fantasy | Mystery | Horror

Dubric Byerly: Ghosts in the Snow (2004), Threads of Malice (2005), Valley of the Soul (2006)

Dubric Byerly

Ghosts in the Snow (2004)

Dubric is the head of security at Castle Faldorrah--a matter of self-preservation, since he is haunted by the ghosts of those who are murdered at the castle, until their killers come to justice. In the past there has been only an occasional killing, but now young servant women and girls are being gruesomely murdered, and not only the ghosts are after Dubric to find the killer.

Ghosts in the Snow is a combination fantasy novel and murder mystery--although a bit on the gruesome side. The murders are bloody and described in detail. Gruesome, but it shows the horror of the the murders, and how they affected the castle and the people in the castle.

I found this interesting as both a mystery and a fantasy. The world was similar enough to ours that the story required only minimal world building, but there were enough details dropped to draw your interest.

The mystery element was also good, although there were a few things I didn't care for. The murders were more gruesome than I personal care for, and I'm not particularly fond of reading the point of view of the hidden murderer. I suppose it's interesting in a way to see the kind of mind that could perpetrate such horrors, but it's not particularly my favorite. I'd rather have left that part out all together, and read only Dubric's point of view.

However, despite that, I still thoroughly enjoyed the story. The dialog was good, there were several sub-threads that I quite enjoyed. I also very much liked the characters. In addition to Dubric, there were plenty of minor characters who were nicely developed.

All in all, a good first book.

Threads of Malice (2005)

Holy crap. this book is dark. I mean, extremely dark. Descriptions of torture and rape and then the murder of the victim. And by this we see the torture from the victim's POV, not just Dubric seeing the results of the torture and murder.

Needless to say, I scanned those bits, because I just can't read things that awful.

Yet I finished the book, because  wanted to know what happened.

Dubric Byerly, head of security at Castle Faldorrah sees the ghosts of the murdered until their murderer dies. When a boy arrives at the castle pleading for help, Dubric, Dien, and Dubric's two pages Lars and Otlee leave immediately. Dien because his family is in the area and his strength is often of help to Dubric who is getting on in years.

Unfortunately, when Dubric enters the range of the ghosts he is overwhelmed and must live with those consequences. However, one positive thing comes from this, which is that Dubric finally admits that he sees the ghosts of the murdered–a burden he has been carrying alone for years.

Another terribly sad part of the story is Dien's father-in-law, a hat-maker who has gone mad–been mad since the death of his son Stuart.

Devyn waved and shuffled off, one hand trailing against the wall for balance.

"I'm sorry," Sarea said, cleaning up Devyn's mess. "He shouldn't have said those things."

Lars dismissed the apology with a shake of his head. "He shouldn't have forgotten you, either. That's a far worse crime than what he said about me."

Sarea hung her head, dishes clattering into the washbasin. "It grows worse every time we visit. I don't know how Mother manages."

"Because I promised to. He's still my husband, " Lissea said as she strode into the kitchen and poured a fresh cup of tea.

And we also see the grieving, whose sons have been murdered.

"Why didn't he just tell me? Why did he have to go looking for it in the first place?"

"Because he was a curious, principled boy, " Dubric said gently. "He tried to help. Tried to stop it."

She lowered her head. "Then it's all my fault, isn't it? I taught him to think and ask questions, to reason things out for himself. I insisted he care about his life, about others, about helping people. Because of my stupid principles he went looking for this damned pattern, and feared it enough to leave it behind as a message for me. And (unnamed), not wanting to lose a different clue, disappeared."

Her chin quivered, and the last shred of strength fell. "I killed him. I killed my son and that sweet little boy." She ripped the paper into tiny shreds. "My work, my Goddess-damned work and hopes for my son got him killed. If I'd been content to be poor, if I had kept my place, kept Braoin ignorant and raised him to expect no more from life, he wouldn't be dead. And (unnamed) might not be lost."

Dubric knelt before her and touched her hand, stilling its shudders. "Look at me, Maeve. Please."

"You're not supposed to be here, " she cried, slamming her free fist against the arm of her chair. "I'm supposed to grieve alone. My whole life I've been alone, except for Braoin. Now, when he's gone, I'm not alone anymore? Why?"

"I am not going anywhere, " he said, grasping her fingers. "I promise. And I will find whoever did this to your family."

"How could a mother kill her son?"

"You did not kill your son. You were a good mother. A fine mother. And you loved him."

"That doesn't matter now, does it? He's still dead. Like all the others, he's dead." She drew her hand from beneath Dubric's and curled away, crying.

As I said, parts of this book are extremely difficult to read.

Published by Bantam Spectra

June 2017 | Not Rated

Valley of the Soul (2006)

Valley of the Soul is the third book in the Dubric Byerly mystery series. I readGhosts in the Snow and enjoyed it, and decided to order the rest of series. Unfortunately, Threads of Malice was out of print, so I had to skip toValley of the Soul. Although I missed events in the previous book, I was able to quickly pick up where we were and enjoy the story. Additionally, once I got into the book (it was put down a quarter of the way in, so I could readDzur) I was unable to put it down until it was finished. (i.e. I was up way past my bedtime to finish the book. Thank goodness it was Saturday night.)

Dubric and his staff are sent to the village of Quarry Run, to investigate the mutilation of local sheep. This investigation turns up more than missing and mutilated sheet–it turns up the possibility that there is a mage (one who somehow survived the wars) loose in the village.

We earn a lot in this book, including Lars' parentage, how Dubric's wife Oriana died, and quite a bit about the mage wars and what brought Faldorrah to its current state.

The one thing I want to make clear about this series is these books are not just mysteries and fantasies, but also have a good dose of horror/gruesomeness, as the author describes the bodies of the sheep and mage's victims, as well as the bodies of various accident victims, and the patients of local sanitariums. However reading about these things almost never bothers me, I found the realism a nice touch.

The world building continues, and becomes more and more fascinating as we learn of more details. The more I learn, the more curious I become about the disasters and wars that shaped the world as it is.

The mystery is also very good. There are twists and turns involving not just the mystery of what was happening in Quarry Run, but family intrigues, including Dien and Dubric's families.

If you enjoyed Ghosts in the Snow and want to continue the series. I'm going to look for a good used copy of Threads of Malice but Valley of the Soul was a good book, and not hard to follow, even skipping the second book.

November 2011 | Rating: 7/10