by Tamora Pierce
New York : Random House, 2006.
Over one hundred years before Alanna was living, Rebakah Cooper's dream was to be one of the Provost Guards, known as "Dogs." Given the chance to be a Puppy to two of the best, Beka can't wait to learn more but she's so shy that she can barely look her Dogs in the face. Then, her friend Tansy's son Rolond goes missing. So many go missing in the Lower City that there are not enough Dogs to look into it. Beka must use her ingenuity and magical ability to hear the dead to learn what happened to Rolond and the other children taken and killed by someone calling himself the Shadow Snake. Now, she just has to gather enough solid facts for her Dogs to take up the hunt as well.
I like Beka a lot. She's tough and she's determined. Her world is not always black and white - the Dogs take bribes but not to evil purposes, and there is only so much they can do in a city teeming with crime. Even though Beka's narrating the story, the other characters have meat on their bones. For example, Tunstall and Goodwin, Beka's Dogs, each have their own personality and we get a sense of their relationship as partners as well. There are a lot of characters to keep up with, so much so that there is a list in the back of the book, though I'd recommend you look at it only after finishing, as there are spoilers included. The story is well-paced, and even at 500+ pages, the last hundred or so read very quickly as the solutions to the mystery come together. I'll see what I think after reading the next book, but so far I think I might like Beka even more than I liked Alanna.