Fresh from the collapse of his marriage, and with the criminal Jhereg organization out to eliminate him, Vlad decides to hide out among his relatives in faraway Fenario. All he knows about them is that their family name is Merss and that they live in a papermaking industrial town called Burz.
At first Burz isn't such a bad place, though the paper mill reeks to high heaven. But the longer he stays there, the stranger it becomes. No one will tell him where to find his relatives. Even stranger, when he mentions the name Merss, people think he's threatening them. The witches' coven that every Fenarian town and city should have is nowhere in evidence. And the Guild, which should be protecting the city's craftsmen and traders, is an oppressive, all-powerful organization, into which no tradesman would ever be admitted.
Then a terrible thing happens. In its wake, far from Draegara, without his usual organization working for him, Vlad is going to have to do his sleuthing amidst an alien people: his own.
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Despite witches, magical amulets and "elfs," the appealing 11th novel in Brust's bestselling Vlad Taltos series is a classic private eye thriller. Still hurting over his recent divorce and pursued by his former employer's assassins, antihero Taltos decides to get out of town for a bit and heads to a neighboring country in search of long-lost relatives. Accompanied by his familiars, telepathic flying lizards Loiosh and Rocza, with Loiosh playing the role of a classic B-movie sidekick ("What's the play, Boss?"), Taltos meets with hostile reactions and a warning not to ask too many questions. Then his remaining family in the area is wiped out in a suspicious fire, and he must uncover a complex conspiracy with stealth, brute force and an endless supply of wisecracks. Longtime fans may miss familiar surroundings and characters, but will enjoy the trip into Taltos's family's past; newcomers will appreciate the noir touches and benefit from Brust's deft touch with exposition.