The Jupiter Knife by D.J. Butler & Aaron Michael Ritchey fantasy book reviewsThe Jupiter Knife by D.J. Butler & Aaron Michael Ritchey fantasy book reviewsThe Jupiter Knife by D.J. Butler & Aaron Michael Ritchey

Hiram Woolley and Michael are back in The Jupiter Knife (2021), a follow-up to The Cunning Man. (Each novel can stand-alone so it’s not necessary to read The Cunning Man first, but I think you’ll enjoy The Jupiter Knife a little more if you do).

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Cunning Man (first in THE CUNNING MAN series) when I read it a couple of years ago. These stories are set in Utah during the Great Depression. What I liked best was the heart-warming relationship between Hiram, a middle-aged beet farmer with some magical skills, and his adopted son Michael, a bright well-read young man with Navajo heritage. Hiram is a bit of a loner, perhaps because his LDS church forbids the magic he uses. Michael doesn’t believe in Hiram’s religion and, at first, doesn’t believe in his magic, either, but the two men love and esteem each other and serve as a beautiful model of how to respectfully disagree and gently persuade on important issues.

The Jupiter Knife takes place a few months after the events of The Cunning Man. In the desert, Hiram and Michael meet the ghost of a boy who disappeared. Michael has a hard time believing in ghosts – he wants a scientific explanation – but in this case even Michael is forced to admit that the evidence for the supernatural seems pretty clear. So the men set out to discover who the boy was, how he died, and what he needs to be laid to rest.

The Jupiter Knife by D.J. Butler & Aaron Michael Ritchey fantasy book reviewsDuring their investigation, father and son encounter stunning Utah scenery, multiple dead bodies, a geologist named Mr. Rock, several shapeshifters, and a seductive widow who begins to occupy Hiram’s thoughts. And what seemed at first to be a simple murder mystery turns into something much stranger and much more dangerous.

Hiram and Michael will solve the crime, of course, but readers may notice that Butler and Ritchey have left us with another mystery. When Hiram talks about his sad family history, he mentions that he doesn’t know what happened to his mother. I hope this is some foreshadowing and that we’ll get to explore this explore this mystery in a future volume. I’m also interested in what becomes of Michael, a young man who now wants to be both a scientist and a cunning man.

Published in 2021. EVEN GHOSTS NEED HELP FROM A CUNNING MAN. A new novel in the Cunning Man series from Dragon Award-nominated author D.J. Butler and Aaron Michael Ritchey. Hiram and his son Michael are dowsing a well in Eastern Utah when they hear a cry of help from the ghost of a small boy, torn to pieces by wild animals. Before they can even begin to look into that tragedy, however, a prosperous local rancher is murdered right before their eyes. In an attempt to both help the ghost and find the killer, Hiram and Michael must navigate an eccentric cast of characters that includes failed bank robbers, a seductive fortune-teller, an inept sheriff, a crazy prospector, and a preacher with an apocalyptic grudge against the Roosevelt administration. The mystery, however, isn’t just in the hearts of men. There’s an astrological puzzle that Michael, now his father’s apprentice, must solve. Meanwhile, the murderer is moving slowly against Hiram and Michael, forcing them into a trap from which there is no escape.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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