Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder series is one of those series where I bring it up to people and they stare at me blankly. It is one of the best pieces of near-future alternate universe science fiction worldbuilding and storytelling out there and it feels like a precious secret, which is frustrating considering how amazing these books are, and how long they’ve been coming out (26 years). It feels like these should be as critically well-regarded as Bone, which came out around the same time and is similarly deep and interesting.
Finder is set in an alternate/near future world, and mainly follows Jaeger, who is a mystery to himself and everyone around him. His status as a sin-eater in his tribe means that to them, he is ritually unclean and always on the outside. When he goes into the domed cities, he is seen as a backwards person, so he is perpetually out of place and rejected no matter where he is. But he is immensely bright and canny and has heightened senses and can heal from anything, so he always ends up getting involved in some sort of trouble. The magic of the series is that we get to see so many different aspects of this world as we follow Jaeger around and meet the people whose lives he touches, even in a small way. The books also follow the Grosvenor family, whose relationship with Jaeger as he enters and exits their lives is one of the central throughlines. Finder: Chase the Lady focuses on Rachel, who at this point in the storyline has made her debut in society and is trying to marry up. She has a title and a big house, but no money to upkeep everything. Jaeger’s tribe has entered the city (they were unable to keep living nomadically on the plains and are in a desperate situation with no money) and is staying with her, so she also has 123 people whom she’s monetarily responsible for. Rachel has a lot of competing motivations to deal with, and she’s stretched thin.
I really like the way McNeil deals with gender and the different ways we see it. Examining gender has been a running theme in this series and in retrospect, is probably a part of why I was so obsessed with it before I figured out I was trans. The people in the city are part of different genetically modified clans, and Rachel’s clan (Llaverac) all appear to be women to outsiders. In her adopted father’s clan (Medawars), all the women are trained to be doctors and the men are all policemen or in the military. All of the clans see the others as odd, and Rachel is in between both in an uncomfortable way — having been raised primarily around Medawars, she was seen by them as strange and wrong, but around Llaveracs she is also not conforming to their standards and has trouble staying in line with their gender roles. I related a lot to this dilemma on a couple of different levels. This is not even getting into the overarching theme of wealth and what it actually is that is real main focus of the book (the “lady” of the title presumably being the goddess of wealth Rachel is trying to manifest throughout).
McNeil is an incredibly talented artist, and their linework and ability to perfectly capture both expression and built environment adds to the depth of the work and the world that the reader sees. I’ve read and re-read these for years and I always get something new out of them. They’re transportive in the best way. McNeil also includes in-depth notes in the back that give you even more context, which I love. I do prefer the black and white art of earlier books because I personally really love seeing the lineart and inking in more depth, but the color here is well done and didn’t take away from my reading experience.
If you’ve never read these books, give the first one a try! Don’t jump in here, though, because you will be missing a ton of context and character motivations. The first arc is collected (confusingly) in two trade paperbacks as Sin-Eater: Vol 1 and 2, or as a hardcover titled Finder Book One. I have the trade paperbacks and those work for me.
Warnings for: dangerous alcohol use, attempted assault, miscarriage, violence (attempted assassination, a murder), state violence (CPS used as a weapon), manipulation of a vulnerable person to do stuff that’s not probably the best for her.