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The Children Prayed

The Library of the Dead  (Edinburgh Nights, volume 1)

By T. L. Huchu 

1 Jul, 2022

Doing the WFC's Homework


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2021’s The Library of the Dead is the first volume in T. L. Huchu’s Edinburgh Nights near-future fantasy series.

The troubles are long over; that is, the people of Scotland are no longer troubled by freedom. The king, his oligarch allies, and their well-armed servants have everything well in hand. The little people of Scotland can look forward to serving their betters. If no betters want them, they can try eke out a meagre living in a collapsed economy. If they fail, they will experience homelessness and starvation. If they tire of that, they can annoy a cop and be beaten to death. Ah, sweet death.

Ropafadzo Ropa” Moyo spends her days desperately trying to make enough money for her gran’s medications, also for rent and food, while also mothering her younger sister and trying to educate herself with audiobooks. Her desperate situation is clearly due to her poor lifestyle choices: being young, female, Black, and Scottish. 

She is not entirely without resources. She has one rare gift: she can speak with the dead. She makes her meagre living delivering messages from the recently deceased. 

The distance between messenger and informal private detective turns out to be quite small.

Nicola is one of the recently deceased. She is still dreadfully worried about her vanished grandson Ollie. She is far too dead to investigate the disappearance herself. Nicola appeals to Ropa to look for Ollie. Alas, the trail is cold, clues are few, and Ropa is distracted by an immediate problem (the landlord really wants the rent). Also, she isn’t really a detective. 

She does have one advantage: in a world that so strongly favours the rich and powerful, wealthy villains feel little need to be subtle. Rather than quietly murdering their victims once their usefulness is over, the child-takers simply dump them. The families are at first relieved at getting their children back. Relief is replaced by horror when those children prove to be suffering from progeria. They are prematurely aged. Still, each returned victim is a clue to the perps. 

While investigating, Ropa wanders into an occult trap. While trapped, she sees a little girl named Grace being handed over to an ominous figure known only as the Midnight Milkman.” Ropa manages to kill her jailer; once free, she sets out to find and save Grace. Which may also lead her to Ollie. 

Step one: find the so-called Midnight Milkman. Easier done than said: her escape from what should have been an inescapable jail and her glimpse of the Milkman make her a potential threat. Ropa won’t have to look hard for the Milkman because the Milkman is going to find her. Then, unless she is very nimble, he is going to run her over with his souped-up milk truck. 


I will just put the bad things happen to kids, of the sort magic does not wish away” warning up here, shall I? 

One must acknowledge that Ropa has an enormous bit of luck, in that she wanders entirely by accident into an occult trap that turns out to be directly related to the Ollie kidnapping. This sort of coincidence is not uncommon in detective stories, but it does suggest that the Milkman’s group must have been operating on an enormous scale if Ropa connects with two victims in such short order. Perhaps if Ropa had done nothing, the scheme would have collapsed when the bad guy(s) ran out of kids to kidnap and victimize.

Attracting the deadly attentions of a killer is one way to identify a killer. This is a time-honored method of detection popular among fictional private investigators and consulting detectives. This method is often quick and direct, though sometimes fatal. Ropa doesn’t want to be one of those dead detectives, so she resorts to other tried and true methods, such as collecting clues and making deductions therefrom. 

Speaking of time-honored traditions, mysteries generally fall into one of two categories: 

  • mysteries in which the social order is essentially good and the role of the detective is to restore normalcy; 
  • mysteries in which the social order is essentially rotten and the role of the detective is to highlight that while doing what they can to mitigate matters. 

I will let you guess which kind of mystery this book is. 

The solution to the mystery is soon obvious. What kept me reading were the characters, in particular the protagonist, her family, and her friends. This volume is somewhat busy, in that the author must establish the setting, set up the mystery, and deal with an entire education subplot I didn’t have room to mention. Still, it was a good enough read to prompt me to obtain the next book in the series and pile it onto Mount Tsundoku. 

The Library of the Dead is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo).