#BlogTour The Identity Thief by Alex Bryant
@alexbryantauth @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours
A shapeshifting sorcerer called Cuttlefish unleashes a terrifying wave of magical carnage across London. A strange family known as the River People move into Cassandra Drake’s neighbourhood. Are the two events connected?
Spoiler alert: no.
Reasons to buy this book:
✔ Good cover.
✔ Cheap. Seriously, the Kindle version only costs as much as about 3 mangoes. What would you rather have – 10 hours of gripping urban fantasy, or 30 minutes of biting into sweet, succulent mango flesh?
✔ OK, I shouldn’t have used mango, objectively the best fruit, as a comparison. But buying this book doesn’t stop you from buying mangoes, if that’s what you insist on doing.
READY OR NOT
The detective was easy to spot in the crowd. While everyone else jostled through the British Library’s atrium, their eyes wide with curiosity, the detective stood stock still, deadpan, her eyes already focused on the Head of Security as he approached. She seemed totally unaware of the tide of humanity washing around her. She was in plainclothes, but her height and close-cropped black hair lent her a natural air of authority.
“Detective Inquisitor Jamila Khan. Security expert with the Sorcery Investigation Department,” the detective said by way of introduction, flashing her badge.
“Ahmed Kalat,” said the Head of Security, flashing a reassuring smile. He knew that his humongous bald head, not to mention the earpiece he was wearing, made him intimidating to most people, but the detective clearly didn’t feel this way. No doubt she’d seen much worse.
“Thanks for agreeing to see me at such short notice,” said the detective, her words as sharp and punchy as gunfire. “This appraisal really can’t wait. I’m sure you’ve been seeing how Cuttlefish’s attacks are becoming more and more extreme.”
“We appreciate your input,” said the Head of Security. “I’m sure there’s a lot we can learn from someone like you. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the measures we have in place already.”
The pair didn’t bother to keep their voices down as they strolled through the atrium, and up a wide, rolling flight of stairs. The conversations all around them multiplied into a background ringing that made it impossible to make out the words of someone standing even six feet away. There was no real danger they could be overheard.
“How much do you know about Cuttlefish?” said the detective.
“Not much, I’m afraid. I know he’s some kind of identity thief. Impersonates other people so that he can steal stuff. He was big news, what, 10 – 15 years ago? And now he’s popped up again.”
“That’s about right, yes. But what’s less well known is that throughout his career he’s only ever been after one thing: sorcery books belonging to the Daedalus set. I assume you know about the Lyceum?”
“The Lyceum? They’re basically some kind of magic Mafia, right?”
The detective winced. “Something like that. They’re behind a lot of the organised sorcery in the UK. They’ve been been around for centuries. Two hundred years ago, one of the Lyceum’s major players was known as Daedalus. We don’t know a lot about him, but we do know that he devoted his life to some project that even the rest of the Lyceum thought was a terrible idea. To this end, he built up a large collection of sorcery books which he marked with a burning torch symbol. Then, one day, he vanished. But he left his grimoires behind. Today, those sorcery books are very highly prized not just for their contents, but for their talismanic properties.”
“They’re capable of enhancing the sorcery of their users. They make it possible to conjure up more powerful illusions, or ward against another sorcerer’s magic. That kind of thing. And, perhaps for this reason, or for another that we don’t yet understand, Cuttlefish seems to have made it his life mission to collect as many Daedalus books as possible. Naturally, this means most of his victims are sorcerers themselves, or at least sympathisers. However, we’re worried that sooner or later he’s going to target the British Library.”
“Right. I think I see where this is going.”
The pair had arrived at the top of the grand staircase. Most of the tourists had been diverted into the British Library’s main exhibition space, with its reverentially displayed artefacts, leaving them in the company of only the most intrepid academics. Their conversation paused as they headed through a reading room.
“First security barrier here,” the Head of Security pointed out, holding his card to the scanner by the door.
“How many staff have access?”
“Here? All of them. About 2000-odd. The next doors we pass through are more selective, limited to specific departments or senior staff.”
The detective nodded and stepped through the door, without giving away her opinions on this.
“You’ll see video surveillance actually continues in here, as well as the thorough coverage we have in all the public areas,” the Head of Security said, pointing out the periodical cameras down the corridor. “Monitored 24/7.”
The detective instantly shot him down. “That’s not good enough.”
“Can’t do better than 24 hours a day, love!”
“Cuttlefish’s specialty is mimesis. Adopting the appearance of other people. He’ll be able to fool anyone looking at him – even if they’re sitting on the other side of the TV screen. Do you use facial recognition software?”
“Not routinely, no.
“That’s going to be essential. No matter how talented he is – and believe me, he is talented – Cuttlefish won’t be able to fool a computer programme. The trouble is, even facial recognition software is only useful if it knows what it’s looking for, and right now we have no leads as to Cuttlefish’s true appearance or identity.”
The Head of Security reopened the previous conversation as they walked on. “So you’re thinking Cuttlefish is going to come after the sorcery books stored here. In particular, the ones that have this torch symbol in them.”
“Exactly. It seems that a handful of Daedalus books have been added to the British Library’s collections over the years. I’m not entirely clear why. If you ask me, the safest thing to do would be to store all of your magical material in a maximum-security facility. Or better yet, just destroy it.”
The Head of Security scoffed. “You probably know what I’m going to say to that. This is a debate we have fairly regularly. These books you’re talking about aren’t just dangerous weapons. They’re a vital part of our cultural heritage, they’re very important to historians and academics of all kinds, and to make them totally inaccessible, or worse yet destroy them, would be truly criminal. And it’s not like the books we house contain any information that sorcerers nowadays can’t just find on the Internet.”
“True. But when a grimoire is made, the pages, the binding, even the ink is enchanted for the sake of enhancing the sorcery it’s used for. And the older the book, the more enchantment it soaks up, and the more powerful a weapon it can be in the wrong hands.”
The Head of Security snorted. “That’s just superstition, isn’t it?”
“Most sorcerers would disagree with you. Cuttlefish would certainly disagree with you. And ultimately, that’s the only thing that matters right now.”
“Well, I assure you, there’s no need to worry about Cuttlefish breaking into this facility. Our security has been designed to keep the nation’s most rare and valuable written material safe, and so far we’ve done a bloody good job.”
The detective narrowed her eyes. “We’ll see about that.”
They stopped in front of a metal door. A sign overhead read MAGICAL MATERIALS DEPT. AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY.
“All right, this is it!” The Head of Security said proudly. “The inner sanctum. Reinforced walls, floors and ceiling. Only two entrances, both of them blast proof. So if Cuttlefish tries to blow a hole anywhere…”
The detective shook her head impatiently. “Cuttlefish can’t do that. He’s a sorcerer, not a demolition expert.”
“Sorcerers blow stuff up all the time, don’t they?”
“In appearance, not reality. Yes, if he wanted to, he could probably find a way to make these doors look like they’d been destroyed, but he’d still be incapable of going in. So you have nothing to worry about there.”
“Right. Yes, of course, that was stupid of me. Anyway, the tech we’ve put on these doors is state of the art. Combination code which changes monthly, and a fingerprint scanner. Both of them mandatory.”
The security here was similar to the security in place around dozens of other rooms in this building. The security elsewhere protected books from the dangers of the outside world. The security leading to this room had the opposite purpose: to protect the outside world from the dangers of these books.
“Equipment like fingerprint scanners are your best line of defence against Cuttlefish,” the detective said. “No matter how easily he can trick a human, he’ll never be able to trick a machine like this. However, this equipment only works if you use it strictly. From now on, I recommend everyone entering this area is required to scan themselves in separately. That means no guests, and don’t even bring another authorized member of staff with you unless they prove they can get past this scanner. Even if they’re your most trusted colleague. Remember, that colleague could be Cuttlefish.”
About the Author:
Alex has led a largely comfortable but unremarkable life in North London, and more recently Oxford. His main hobbies as a kid were reading and sulking.
When he’s not writing, he’s performing with his improvised comedy troupe, Hivemind Improv. And when he is writing, he’s procrastinating.
The first idea for The God Machine came when he was 19, shortly after falling off a horse. Or possibly shortly before – the exact chronology is lost to history. So is the horse’s name, in case you were wondering.
Author site: www.alexbryantauthor.com
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