Beka is a Puppy (or Dog in training) which is basically like being a police cadet. She works in the worst part of the city but since this is where her life started she is happy working here. She wants to help the community where she was raised and make it better for those that are stuck living a difficult life in a hard world. Instead of going for glory, she picks difficult cases to work because she wants to help people. The cases of the diggers and the shadow snake went ignored for a long time because they were happening to people that are often ignored by those of authority. Beka with her special connection to those living in the Lower City makes it a point to help those that would otherwise be ignored. She isn't a perfect heroine either; she suffers from crippling shyness and has special abilities to talk with the spirits of the dead. What really makes me lover her is her strong desire to help people and to hurt those that make life harder for people who's lives are already exceedingly difficult. She is not in it for the glory and in an organization where bribery is actually what makes the police system work she doesn't get greedy either.
Beka isn't the only fantastic character in this work. The two dogs she is assigned to Goodwin and Tunstall are also interesting. There personalities are opposites and allows Ms. Pierce to play them off of each other. It also showcases two different styles of working and provides us with yet anothers fabulous strong female character. Rosto the Piper and his freinds Aniki and Kora were other favorites of mine and Rosto the Piper maybe my new literary crush, so I really hope he makes an appearance in the next book in the series. They come from another country and even though they are Rats, they have a strong sense of honor. They also see the importance of helping those who are weak and can't necessarily take care of themselves. (I could go on forever about these characters and others but I assume you have other things to do with your day.)
While there is alot of world building in this book I really feel that what makes Tamora Pierce's work stand out are her fabulous characters. I always find myself loving them and they are just so easy to connect to. The more I read, the more I like her work so I think eventually I will read all of it.