In this story, Mama Hog gets Markhat involved in yet another dangerous case. She brings in the seemingly crazy Granny Knot, who is introduced as being a spook doctor (she can see and speak to spirits). Granny Knot turns out to not be as crazy as she acts, even if the case she has brought Markhat is supposedly on behalf of a ghost.
The ghost says his name is Sellway. Before he died, he was a soldier and, for whatever reason, he found himself unable to go home to his wife and child. Now that he's dead, he feels guilty about that. He amassed a fortune in the years before his death, and he'd like Markhat to deliver it to his wife and child. Markhat agrees to take on the case, which turns out to be twistier than he expects.
The Cadaver Client was more of what I enjoyed in The Mister Trophy and Dead Man's Rain. Markhat (who I realized still doesn't have a first name) was, as usual, snarky, smart, and in possession of a strong sense of justice, and the mystery itself was interesting. Unfortunately, some of the things I disliked about Dead Man's Rain were also present in this story.
Although the first three stories in the series could be read in any order, I kind of wish that weren't the case. It feels like Markhat has the same level of skepticism in each of the stories. After seeing supposedly impossible things in the first two stories in the series, I would think it would be easier for Markhat to believe in ghosts, but Mama Hog had to repeatedly tell him that Granny Knot's abilities were genuine. And his belief in Mama Hog's magic seemed only slightly stronger in this story than in the others. Since her magic hasn't once failed him, I'm not sure why she still has to warn him not to throw her little presents out, whether or not they're gross or pitiful-looking.
I still enjoyed Markhat's “voice,” and I liked that the mystery turned out to be a little more complicated than “dead soldier wants Markhat to deliver some money to his family.” Markhat's idea for getting himself into the graveyard at the end made me laugh, as did the thug who was deathly afraid of Mama Hog. Also, I enjoyed getting to see a little more of Markhat's world. I already own several more works in this series, and I imagine I'll enjoy them. I just hope that, at some point soon, events that happen in previous stories start having more of an effect on later stories. I'd like to see evidence of change.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
- Jhereg (book) by Steven Brust - This is the first book in Brust's Vlad Taltos series (if you want to read them in publication order - in chronological order, Taltos comes first). The main character is a witch-assassin who has taken a job requiring him to kill a man who stole from the House of Jhereg, and kill him in such a way that no one would ever steal from the House again. Those who'd like something else with strong fantasy and mystery elements, plus a side of humor, might want to try this.
- Storm Front (book) by Jim Butcher - This is the first book in Butcher's Dresden Files series. The main character, Harry Dresden, is a professional wizard. He's basically a hard boiled private eye with magical abilities. In this book, he helps the police investigate gruesome murders in which the victims' hearts have exploded inside their chests.
- Guards! Guards! (book) by Terry Pratchett - Something about Markhat's world made me think of it as a darker version of Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Those who'd like something else set in a city housing a variety of human and nonhumans might want to try this, which I think is one of the first books to deal with Sam Vimes and Ankh-Morpork's City Watch in any detail. The book combines, fantasy and humor, plus, if I remember correctly, a bit of investigative work on Vimes' part.
- Midnight Riot (book) by Ben Aaronovitch - Those who'd like another mix of mystery and fantasy, plus a snarky main character, might want to give this a try. Probationary Constable Peter Grant sees a ghost while standing guard at the scene of a murder and is eventually made part of a special investigative unit that deals with magical situations. In between learning about his new abilities and dealing with river gods and goddesses, Peter helps investigate several violent crimes that turn out to be connected. I've written about this book.
- Firefly (live action TV series) - Markhat reminded me an awful lot of Mal Renolds in this particular story. He was rough around the edges and dealt with a few somewhat unsavory types, but he was basically a good guy, and he had a conscience. Firefly is a mix of science fiction and Western.