Myth-taken Identity (2004) 294 pages by Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye.
In this caper, Aahz, Chumley and Massha go to The Mall to investigate why a bill collector showed up at M.Y.T.H. Inc. saying that Skeeve had run up an incredibly large bill and not paid it. They find out that someone or group has been able to somehow use a person's credit card to impersonate that person.
The book introduces a couple of characters from Aahz's past (before he met Skeeve) and several more that were shopowners, mall security, Eskina a detective from Ratalan who had tracked Ratilla (the baddie) to this dimension. It turns out that Ratalan is a magic poor world and they were making an invention, a card that would soak up magic. Ratilla was a night janitor, got his hands on the card, and fled to The Mall. Where he became king over the mall-rats. The mall-rats had always been into petty theft, but now the were, with Ratilla's help, stealing big time.
There was some homage to Tolkien, the "Master-Card" was like the one ring. The rats when they used the cards that allowed them to shapechange, kind of took on the personality of the person they were victimizing. The chant to invoke the cards were similar to the rings. And at the end of the book, they said that the card was too powerful and needed to be destroyed and to do it they had to throw it into a volcano.
Aahz and crew come up with one plan, after another. Seeming to get a little closer then it falls apart, until the climax when they finally catch the crook.
I thought they needed to explaing the mechanism of the card and the people who were being copied a bit better. First it was people who used credit cards had some of their essence in the card. It wasn't clear if those people had lost their real credit card or not, and by the middle of the story, all they had to do was talk to someone for a few minutes, learn a little bit of personal information and they could create a duplicate with one of their fake cards.
The people seemed to stay in character, I had a little trouble following the logic of how this piece of magic worked. The book was good, but a step down from the first 10 or so of the series.
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