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A Study in Sable
by Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books, $27.00, 313pp
Published: June 2016

This was a business-as-usual Elemental Masters novel from Lackey. We have psychic Nan and Sarah the medium in Victorian London with their paranormal skills. Nan can read “objects.” Who has handled them etc. and Sarah can see ghosts and in most cases, persuade them to leave this mortal coil.

They work with Lord Alderscroft, head of the White Lodge in London (he and his cohorts deal with all things paranormal for Her Majesty’s Government). They are also good friends with Dr. John Watson, his wife Mary and that eccentric, brilliant detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Sarah and Nan also have a young ward named Suki who also has a bit of paranormal about her: she has the skill of telepathy. Along with Suki, Sarah has two avian friends who are Astral Guardians: Neville, a raven and Grey an African Grey parrot who are even smarter and more talkative than the average member of their species.

This novel has the main characters involved in several events. The removal of a Black Beast/Thing that may be a Fomorian, an ancient evil even by the standard of most of the fae creatures in England that needs to be captured and sunk into the sea far from any interaction between humans or fae. There is an assignment to track down who is doing blood magic deep in the woods near Sevenoaks---and the revelation of who he is and what’s going on is not at all what you might expect. We even have a couple of charming visits with the Oldest Old One of all—Robin Goodfellow (Puck).

But the main tale is Sarah being hired by an opera diva from Germany, Magdalena von Dietersdorf, because she has been plagued by a horde of ghosts at night and cannot sleep. So Sarah has been called in to see if she can’t send these ghosts on their way and spare the diva her sleepless nights. Sarah deals with the plethora of ghosts, but there is this one angry bright spirit that she cannot “talk” to which has her puzzled.

And this is the tip of the iceberg in this story. What really happened to Magdalena’s sister Johanna? Just why is Magdalena not only surrounded by ghosties, but a herd of admirers who do not mind if she sets them aside—but remain devoted to her after their rejection? And really, just WHAT is Magdalena’s paranormal power? And how has it even enthralled the sensible Sarah; driving a wedge between her and Nan?

It’s a great story made even better because it also involves Sherlock Holmes and Dr. and Mary Watson.  And the ending is actually not what I expected which tied the whole off quite neatly.

This is quite “Elemental, my dear readers.” ~~ Sue Martin

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