Hetty Rhodes and her husband, Benjy, were Conductors on the Underground Railroad, ferrying dozens of slaves to freedom with daring, cunning, and magic that draws its power from the constellations. With the war over, those skills find new purpose as they solve mysteries and murders that white authorities would otherwise ignore.
In the heart of Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward, everyone knows that when there’s a strange death or magical curses causing trouble, Hetty and Benjy are the only ones that can solve the case. But when an old friend is murdered, their investigation stirs up a wasp nest of intrigue, lies, and long-buried secrets- and a mystery unlike anything they handled before. With a clever, cold-blooded killer on the prowl testing their magic and placing their lives at risk, Hetty and Benjy will discover how little they really know about their neighbors . . . and themselves.
The Conductors for me is a case of superb premise, yet uneven follow-through. The positives are many… the interaction between the main characters, parts of the magic system, and a historical setting that adds great perspective.
After being a part of the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War, now during Reconstruction Hetty and Benjy take on jobs , mysteries mostly. And while this is a great service to the Philadelphia black community, the plotting itself is sluggish.
I was intrigued with the addition of constellations in the magic system. It was part of most conjuring in the book, but the connection between the stars and the finished spells was tenuous.
The biggest strength of the book is its historical setting and what a reader can learn from Glover’s details. The racial lines that are drawn and the magic that is cast.
Yet, all these positives (with some qualifiers) just can’t overcome the jagged plotting. Crisscrossing threads and flashbacks pull the reader back and forth. I felt like a solid edit could really help this novel to streamline its overall themes which were very powerful.
3 out of 5 stars
Thank you to NetGalley, HMH Publishing, and the author for an advanced copy for review.