The Conductors by Nicole Glover
Hetty Rhodes and her husband, Benjy, were Conductors on the Underground Railroad, ferrying dozens of slaves to freedom with daring, cunning, and magic that draws its power from the constellations. With the war over, those skills find new purpose as they solve mysteries and murders that white authorities would otherwise ignore.
In the heart of Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward, everyone knows that when there’s a strange death or magical curses causing trouble, Hetty and Benjy are the only ones that can solve the case. But when an old friend is murdered, their investigation stirs up a wasp nest of intrigue, lies, and long-buried secrets- and a mystery unlike anything they handled before. With a clever, cold-blooded killer on the prowl testing their magic and placing their lives at risk, Hetty and Benjy will discover how little they really know about their neighbors . . . and themselves.
This is a unique historical fantasy/mystery set not long after the Civil War. The magic that Hetty and Benjy practice is based on constellations. But there are other ways to wield magic as well. The two are drawn into investigating the murder of someone they know. And as they grow closer to answers, the danger increases. There are a lot of characters, so I was often confused. But as the story went along, I was able to catch on better. Some of the highlights of the novel were the flashbacks of Hetty and Benjy’s time during the Underground Railroad and helping people to freedom. The first half of the book is a bit of a slow burn, despite the murder. But as the pacing picked up, and Hetty and Benjy closed in on the killer, it became more exciting and captivating. The story is dramatic and heart-wrenching, yet with a bit of sweet romance and hope. This is an impressive debut, rich with history and inventive magic.