As part of a push to get back into series I've reviewed on here previously, but missed that installments have come out since I last read them, I managed to get Taken in by Benedict Jacka's third book in the Alex Verus novels. (The first two are here and here.)
Now, I'll admit, I'm noticing that much of the British urban fantasy I read falls into a cheeky hardboiled mode, and Alex Verus is much in a similar vein. We have a Femme Fatale introduced early on in Crystal, who wants Alex to work security at the White Stone tournament at Fountain Reach. The former being a mage tournament wherein they can all magic the poop out of each other with no real harm coming to either participant in the duel, and the latter being a strongly warded house with a permanent shroud effect.
We have Alex's apprentice Luna (who's technically an adept, sort of), who's classmates Anne (Life magick) and Variam (fire magick) are apprenticed to an ancient rakasha (Indian tiger demon). We also have Morden and Onyx making an appearance, as once again, Onyx gets assigned to help Alex solve the mystery of the vanishing apprentices. Because apprentices of both the Light Mages and the Dark mages are vanishing, and non of the more grey magicks (time, divination, space) seem to be able to break the shrouds that surround each vanishing.
A visit to Anne and Variam's patron as well as a mysterious text message winds up propelling Alex to Fountain Reach as well as entering Luna in the White Stone tournament.
Yeah, there's a mystery here, although I had much of the actual mystery figured out not long into the investigation. There are a few twists that I missed that come up towards the end that make it more satisfying.
Yes, I rather like this series. It fills a middle place between Simon R. Green's really overpowered protagonists and Paul Cornell's fairly human protagonists. While Alex has powers, they don't particularly lend themselves well to combat. This allows the action to focus more on cleverness in getting around obstacles. The only real issue here is that the use of divination to find the correct path gets a bit silly, as looking at multiple futures to eavesdrop on conversations probably would not really work as well as it does in the series. But honestly, with disbelief suspended this far, that's a minor quibble.