Plot Summary/Details

The book is a single novel, though IIRC, it read more a collection of related "cases", with the same recurring characters. I believe the story's timeframe is late 19th to mid-20th century Britain. The police - whom IIRC, are with Scotland Yard - carry both firearms and swords (often referred to as "a smallsword"), and magic is an integral part of both their job and the crimes they solve.

I'm afraid I don't remember many details about the various cases they investigate, but I do remember one specific detail from a crime scene. The investigators are examining a house, and the subject of the dangers of magic comes up. A senior officer tells a younger one a story about someone who died as a result of a spell he concocted to rid his flat of bugs. While preparing a concoction over the fire, several drops of sweat from his forehead dripped into the pot. When the spell was enacted, the conjurer was affected by his own death spell, and he died of a fever.

Other Details

IIRC, the word "magic" or "sorcery" or something similar is part of the title. I seem to recall that the cover photo was of an outstretched hand, a pentagram on the palm, and some sort of sorcerous fire coming from the fingertips.

Timeframe of Publication

I think this one came out in the 1970s or 1980s, though it could be older. I almost certain I read it in the 80s, so it would not be more recent than that.

  • 2
    Murder and Magic by Randall Garrett?
    – user14111
    Feb 18, 2017 at 22:48
  • 2
    That's it! I just googled the title, and found the cover. That's most definitely the book I was looking for here.
    – Helbent IV
    Feb 18, 2017 at 22:52
  • 1
    You googled the title and found the cover? Why didn't you just click on the link in my comment?
    – user14111
    Feb 18, 2017 at 22:56
  • 1
    Uh, got carried away in the moment. :) Sorry!
    – Helbent IV
    Feb 18, 2017 at 22:57
  • 2
    From the question title alone it could have been the Peter Grant / Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. However, it is set in contemporary London, not early 20th century.
    – CJ Dennis
    Feb 19, 2017 at 1:43

1 Answer 1


You're thinking of Murder and Magic, a collection of short stories by Randall Garrett. You've described the cover perfectly.

Here's the relevant part of the scene you're remembering, from the first story, The Eyes Have It :-

"The Law of Contagion, gently-born sirs, is a tricky thing to work with. If a man doesn't know how to handle it, he can get himself killed. We had an apprentice o' the Guild back in Cork who might have made a good sorcerer in time. He had the Talent - unfortunately, he didn't have the good sense to go with it. According to the Law of Contagion any two objects which have ever been in contact with each other have an affinity for each other which is directly proportional to the product of the degree of relevancy of the contact and the length of time they were in contact and inversely proportional to the length of time since they have ceased to be in contact." He gave a smiling glance to the priest. "That doesn't apply strictly to relics of the saints, Reverend Sir; there's another factor enters in there, as you know."

"Anyhow," he went on, "this apprentice, all on his own, decided to get rid of the cockroaches in his house - a simple thing, if one knows how to go about it. So he collected dust from various cracks and crannies about the house, dust which contained, of course, the droppings of the pests. The dust, with the appropriate spells and ingredients, he boiled. It worked fine. The roaches all came down with a raging fever and died. Unfortunately, the clumsy lad had poor laboratory technique. He allowed three drops of his own perspiration to fall into the steaming pot over which he was working, and the resulting fever killed him, too."

You might also be interested in Lord Darcy which is a complete collection of stories from the Lord Darcy continuity, including the novel, Too Many Magicians.

  • 1
    "The Eyes Have It" was also the answer to this old question. Not a duplicate because the new question is asking about the collection.
    – user14111
    Feb 18, 2017 at 23:03
  • 1
    "The Eyes Have It" is available at Project Gutenberg.
    – user14111
    Feb 19, 2017 at 7:26

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