Jan 302024

Kirkus: Sherlock Holmes meets Game of Thrones.

Call Bennett’s latest a drawing-room mystery, albeit the drawing room is the size of a small otherworldly kingdom. It begins, natch, with a corpse. “You were informed that the nature of his death was an alteration, yes, sir?” So asks a military officer of young Signum Dinios Kol, a.k.a. Din, who’s noted that a tree has torn the unfortunate victim apart. Din works for an oddball private detective, Immunis Anagosa Dolabra, a.k.a. Ana, who combines the wiles of Irene Adler with the eccentricities of Sherlock Holmes, including his penchant for narcotics. Din suspects that members of the Haza clan, corrupt 1 percenters, are mixed up in the nastiness, for they’re in the way of acquiring some real estate in the area, and the victim was an impediment. The whole business is complicated by the fact that someone has been undermining the walls of the empire so that leviathans can slither in from the ocean and add their mischief to the evil doings of errant titans abroad in the land. Ana has a fierce temper and is more loquacious than the subdued but sometimes lethal Din: “I do so admire,” she tells him, “how you can be a flippant shit with a mere handful of syllables. Quite a talent.” Bennett borrows from his own Foundryside series for a detail: Where those books involved a strange art called “scriving,” here Din is an Imperial engraver, “altered to remember everything I experienced, always and forever,” handy when it comes to memorizing safe combinations and the exact wording of past conversations. With plenty of red herrings—beg pardon, red leviathans—and neatly imagined plot twists to work through, the reader fond of faux medieval neologisms and occasional grownup moments (“a glimpse of her body, and a winking tuft of pubic thatch”) will enjoy solving the mystery with our heroes.

A rousing adventure for alt-fantasy fans.