The Broken Bell by Frank Tuttle

Rating: 10/10 ★★★★★★★★★★ 
Title: The Broken Bell
Author: Frank Tuttle
Genre: Fantasy, horror
URL: Samhain Publishing
Price: US $6.50
Other Information/warnings: horror, violence
Summary [from the publisher]:
There’s no way Markhat can turn away his newest client. Who is he to refuse the woman he loves—especially when she bribes him with breakfast?
This time it’s Darla’s friend Tamar Fields, whose fiancé vanished days before the wedding. His wealthy family insists Carris Lethway is simply away on urgent business. Tamar smells a lie, and she needs Rannit’s most famous finder to figure out if the source of the suspicious aroma is a conspiracy, or the groom’s cold, sweaty feet.
As if his plate isn’t piled high enough, Mama Hog’s slip of the tongue has landed him in the middle of a good old-fashioned Pot Lockery clan feud. Plus, Rannit’s streets are abuzz with rumors of war—and Tamar’s case has his own lady love hearing wedding bells of her own.
As Rannit arms for battle, Markhat finds himself torn between old alliances and new commitments, and a growing, awful fear that no matter which way he turns, all he loves is about to go up in flames.

My review:

Of all the Markhat books, of which I am an unashamed enthusiast, this is probably the darkest and most complex. In this, the unhealed wounds from the past for Markhat, his friends, and his city, are exposed and scraped raw. No one escapes – not Mama Hog, dealing with a spate of hexes causing Markhat to be targeted by thugs from Gertriss’s village; not Gertriss herself who seems to be the victim of an attempt to exact revenge for her killing a rapist; not the veterans of the bitter civil war, including Markhat himself, who are doomed to pay the price for their masters’ misdeeds. Not even the mysterious and far from benign Corpsemaster escapes the turmoil. And through it all Darla does her best to aid and hold onto her peripatetic beloved, who does *his* best to avoid facing up to the inevitable destination of the world’s most rambling romance journey.

It’s a long book and the plot is complicated, with seemingly disparate events like curses, kidnappings and seige machine developments only slowly being revealed to be interconnected. The writing is, of course, superb, with plenty of dry and wry observations from our narrator Markhat, and not a few from his companions, live and dead. Tuttle builds to a crescendo of almost unbearable tension, and this being Tuttle, you can’t be sure that all our favourite characters will survive the climax. There’s a good bit of violence and horror in this, but none is gratuitous. The plot is definitely grim, but this is, I think, the best of the Markhat series. A deeply satisfying and enjoyable read.

Don’t start with this one, however, if you don’t know the series – it won’t make sense and you’ll miss too much of the history, and besides you’ll deny yourself the pleasure of meeting Markhat, Darla, Gertriss and Mama Hog for the first time. Start with The Mister Trophy and then enjoy the rest of the books before treating yourself to this wonderful novel.