Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Grief of Stones (The Cemeteries of Amalo #2), by Katherine Addison (author), Liam Gerrard (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250856616, June 2022

This is the direct sequel to Witness for the Dead, picking up Thara Celehar's life immediately after those events. Thara spends mornings in his office, waiting for petitioners for his services as a Witness for the dead, and has a steady enough traffic to make it not pointless. He responds to calls from the Vigilant Brotherhood, or other authorities as necessary. He has cats who aren't his (he's very firm about that), but whom he feeds regularly, and a few friends.

But though he's settling in, he's also extremely depressed. This isn't new, but it's not getting better. He's caught in a conflict with a local religious authority, Dach'othalar Vernezar, who is angered by the fact that Thara is the only cleric in Amalo who isn't under his authority. Thara's presence in the city was request by Prince Orchenis, and he was appointed directly by the Archprelate. It's an uncomfortable position to be in, and it gives him powerful enemies.

The storytelling here is gentle, though the mysteries his petitioners bring to him are often quite brutal in their facts and impact. 

Marquess Ulzhavel sends for Thara to investigate whether the seemingly natural death of his wife, Tomilo, was actually murder, after he finds a threatening note in her papers as he's sorting through them. Tomilo has been dead too long for Thara to be able to speak to her ghost, so he has to find other ways to investigate.

Subpreceptor Azhanharad of the Vigilant Brotherhood asks him to Witness for a a woman whose body was washed up in the canal. He gets faint impressions of her last moments; she was murdered. Very little else is left. He takes her earring, and sets out to see if anyone can identify her from that. They can. She's a soprano at the Vermillion Opera. This leads Thara to his friend, Iana Pel-Thenhior, the opera director. At least Thara gets cooperation in questioning everyone there.

He's also approached by someone connected, or formerly connected, to a boarding school for foundling girls, where something hard to pin down is wrong. Tomilo Ulzhavel was previously on the board, but had resigned after a conflict with another board member, but no one seems to know why. And yes, two seemingly separate mysteries are about to become intertwined.

Along the way, Thala Celehar is surprised to be sent an apprentice, a Witness in training, Othala Tomasarin. She's a widow who has discovered her ability to speak with the dead, and thus her calling, rather late, and has been sent to him to be trained, rather than being enrolled in the more conventional clerical training. At first he has no idea what to do with her, but he's a kind and decent person, and so is she, and they discover they can work together well.

It is, as I said, a gentle storytelling, and does not at first appear to be fast-moving, but a great deal happens in all that gentle storytelling. There's political intrigue, uncovering a child pornography ring, investigating a terrible disaster, and the slow but promising development of Thara's relationship with Iana Pel-Thenhior. It's not certain even at the end how far that will go; Thara still has tragedy to recover from.

It's a rich, rewarding story, with the steady and absorbing development of not just Thara, but his friends and associates, and the city of Amalo itself.


I bought this audiobook.

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