The Witness for the Dead, by Katherine Addison

Review copy provided by the publisher. Also the author has been a personal friend for, wow, let’s not count how many years.

This is in the same world as The Goblin Emperor, and it takes place soon after it, but it’s not a sequel per se. We already know Thara Celehar, a bit: he’s the Witness for the Dead who found the truth about the previous emperor. But this book takes Celehar somewhere quieter, somewhere completely new. Somewhere no less surrounded by death and doom, but y’know, that’s the life of a Witness for the Dead.

This is a murder mystery with strong fantastical elements. The deaths and lives Celehar is trying to witness tangle themselves around each other, each piece leading to another. There are cemetery ghouls rather than court etiquette, and the main role of airships is…not healthy for those near them…but the essential goodness of the Celehar himself, and of some though not all of the people he encounters keep this book very much buoyed up.

There’s so much scope for characterization and worldbuilding here, and Addison uses both to their utmost. The world of the opera and how this world’s ideas of race change who gets to do what; domestic violence and family grief; a very shy person realizing, tentatively, that he can have friends, that though he faces opposition he also has support. I love all these elements so much.

One of the great virtues of mystery novels can be good people making sense of the world, and that’s here, that’s very much here–along with the potential for so much more to follow. Highly recommended. Here if you want to squee about it.

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