Donald Hounan, Gifted

Corgi, 2015, ISBN 978-0-552-57187-6

Frank is fifteen and a forensic sorcerer. The best sorcerer his teacher has ever come across, he is impulsive and headstrong, and frequently gets in trouble with the authorities. In a world in which everyone stops being able to see things clearly once they reach their twenties, and even sorcerers lose their powers while still young, Frank's insight and expertise are invaluable. But the police find his maverick working style infuriating, and his constant questioning of received wisdom raises hackles. He has been called in to help work out the circumstances of the Bishop of Oxford's death. At least, it's assumed the victim is the Bishop of Oxford, though as the head is missing it is difficult to be sure. Even once Frank locates the head, nothing is simple. And it is not just the case that gives him problems. Sorcerers' powers - they can conjure up demons, and some of them dabble in necromancy - make them a source of mistrust and hatred, and Frank has to keep out of the clutches of the Anti-Sorcery Brotherhood. He has an ally in Marvell, the officer supporting the detective leading the case, who is romantically interested in him, but he antagonises her with his social ineptitude, and in any case, despite his vows of chastity, he finds himself increasingly drawn to the mysterious Kazia. There is danger everywhere.

The setting of Gifted is twentieth century Oxford, but this is a post-apocalyptic Oxford, now nicknamed Doughnut City, because of the destroyed and empty centre, home to criminals and the dispossessed. Sorcery is seen as a necessary evil, and its rules and systems are complex. Frank has spent seven years or more learning them. He is a compelling protagonist with an appealing sense of humour and lots of interesting character flaws. The plot is convoluted but gripping. Fans of fantasy whodunits will certainly enjoy this.