What a fun way to get into the mood for spooky season, as we follow a pair of sibling monster hunters on the trail of an unusual killer in early 20th century New York!
To most eyes, Rosemary and Aaron Harker are an orphaned brother and sister living quietly as adults in New Haven, Connecticut, with their over-sized dog, Botheration. Sometimes they travel, as when they’re summoned north to the town of Brunson by Margaret Lovelace, the widow of their distant relative, Uncle Tucker. Aunt Margaret herself is only passing on one of his final requests: should he die, Rosemary and Aaron must be summoned to investigate.
For the Harkers are Huntsmen, a bloodline that specializes in hunting the Uncanny, the catch-all term for the supernatural creatures that prey on humanity. Their remit is to use deadly force against those that kill, and to be prepared to act in self-defense. Castigated by the Church as unclean, Huntsmen form a worldwide network dedicated to protecting humankind against killers that very few want to admit are real. Usually, they’re called in by others of their association to investigate reports of Uncanny slayings, or to assist in the termination of same. Being invited on the vague terms of their aunt by marriage is something new, but a summons they’re ready and willing to answer.
Brunson seems like your ordinary small town, a former logging center looking to transition into more modern industries. Something strange is definitely going ongoing on tho. Uncle Tucker’s death has been written off as a wild animal attack, but the police are being surprisingly cagey, refusing to return the journal they took away as evidence from his estate. In order to properly investigate, the siblings take on roles that are only slightly different from their reality: Aaron poses as a young man of means helping his Aunt Margaret settle her late husband’s affairs while Rosemary slips into her tried and true persona of amateur folklorist.
They soon learn that their uncle was right to suspect the worst, as his was only the latest in a string of weird deaths plaguing this otherwise ordinary place. But what, exactly, killed him, and why? More importantly, can the Harkers stop whatever it is from killing again?
I love monster hunting books, especially when done well. The Harkers are a wonderfully drawn pair, siblings who both rely on, irritate and look out for one another as they pursue their unusual calling. I loved how they weren’t stereotypical, with Rosemary being the more confrontational and Aaron the more calculating, despite being penned in by the gender roles demanded by their times. It was also nice to see so many non-standard monsters, especially referred to in passing. The 1913 setting is also pretty great, as the Harkers find themselves caught in the middle of labor conflicts caused by selfish industrialists.
In terms of action and pacing, I was reminded somewhat of Jim Butcher’s first Dresden Files novel, Storm Front. I do think that this book’s major confrontation could have taken more space in the narrative, but overall, this was a solidly entertaining series debut, and just a really fun Halloween read.
Uncanny Times (Huntsmen #1) by Laura Anne Gilman was published October 18 2022 by Gallery/Saga Press and is available from all good booksellers, including