Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Uncanny Times (Huntsman #1), by Laura Anne Gilman

Gallery Books, ISBN 9781534415928, October 2022

It's 1913. Rosemary and Aaron Harker, sister and brother, are Huntsmen. Their blood isn't entirely human, and they have the ability to hunt and kill the Uncanny, unnatural creatures of the night who sometimes hunt humans.

The Uncanny don't hunt humans often, because of the Huntsmen. When they do, the Huntsmen respond, and kill the offender against a long, uneasy truce. The Huntsmen don't try to wipe out the Uncanny, because there are too many of them, and humanity would be the losers.

Rosemary and Aaron receive a letter, telling them a distant cousin, knowledgeable about the Huntsmen but not quite one himself, has died. He left a note saying that if he died in unusual circumstances, Rosemary and Aaron should be summoned. They quickly pack and leave, with their hound, Botheration, for a small town in upstate New York.

They arrive to find a very charming small town, which has recently had a new influx of money, due to the new mill. The bed & breakfast where they are staying is lovely, charming, and run by a kind and friendly woman, who nevertheless is in firm control. Other guests include two businessmen, who are there to investigate possible real estate developments.

The Harkers' cousin was a doctor, and well-respected. He treated many of the less prosperous in town, and was sympathetic to the union movement. That made him less popular with some of the wealthier in town. He was killed taking a late night walk, and the  police have concluded that he was killed by a cougar. However, they have also, oddly, taken the good doctor's journal, written in Latin to protect his more outré observations--because the doctor was knowledgeable, somewhat sensitive, and observant on matters of the Uncanny. His wife, though, although not of Huntsman blood, is intelligent, strong, and somewhat in her husband's confidence about the Uncanny. He was worried about something seemingly haunting the area.

And, it turns out, there were two previous deaths, also attributed to a cougar.

But a cougar would eat its prey, not leave it. especially since the other two were in more isolated places.

Rosemary discovers a nest of brownies in a local bakery. Brownies are relatively harmless, but they're an indicator that there are in fact Uncanny in the town. In a more adventurous part of their investigation, they learn both that the doctor's injuries are not at all consistent with a cougar attack, and that there are also ghouls. 

The local librarian says that there are no stories about monsters or strange events, but she's also very nervous about something.

And then Botheration, who has had little to do on this hunt, does scent one. It's a mercreature, with a message for them. It seems the local Uncanny are worried about what's afoot in the town. think the humans have brought it, and want the Harkers to solve the problem.

There's something in town that scares the Uncanny.

The atmosphere gets creepier and creepier, and meanwhile, the real estate investors have convinced the police that the Harkers are connected to the union organizing at the mill. So they are trying to avoid getting kicked out of town, while hunting something even the other Uncanny can't identify for them.

It's a story with good characters, solid world-building, and an atmosphere that keeps building.


I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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