Katherine Addison: The Witness for the Dead (Hardcover, 2021, Tor Books) 4 stars

A standalone novel in the fantastic world of Katherine Addison's award-winning The Goblin Emperor.

When …

Murder mystery with elves and goblins, and an opera!

4 stars

This novel doesn't follow the same character as The Goblin Emperor, but builds up that same world. It is a crime fiction in a fantasy setting and not a regular ole fantasy novel (you know, the ones that start with “Harry y'er a chosen one!”).

I really liked the main character, it made me think a lot of Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee or Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael. He's a Witness For The Dead, as such he can “see” the last thoughts of the recently deceased, and he can fight ghuls. His “normal” cases relate mostly to ending inheritance disputes or finding tombstones, but sometimes, when an unknown, mysterious young woman washes up on the shore of the canal, he's called on to see what he can learn about her last moments… and if it shows that she was the victim of a murder, he's got to solve it. I also liked the setting, instead of seeing the court of the emperor, you see how his subjects live. There are a multitude of influences in the worldbuilding, it made me think of a late-19th century Japan—full of modern wonders (tramways, zeppelin factories!) along with a deep spiritual grounding of the characters, and a very stratified society. And lots of tea drinking.

The book was a fast read, the only problem being all the elven or goblin names to remember.