The Stitcher and the Mute by D.K. Fields
Head of Zeus, pb. £7.37
Review by Ian Green
The industrial fantasy world of Fenest is ridden with crime and intrigue- Detective Cora Gorderheim might have found the killer she hunted in Widow’s Welcome, the opening book of this trilogy, but it is rapidly clear that she was only pulling at the first threads of a tangled web of conspiracy. Someone ordered that murder, and that person is still at large. Despite being warned to let things lie, Cora delves deeper into the intrigue and all the danger it conceals.
In The Stitcher and The Mute, the authors follow the same structure as Widow’s Welcome– a pacey crime thriller with veins of conspiracy, political machinations, and intrigue, interwoven with sprawling vignettes that hint at the wider world and the problems of Fenest. The gruff Detective Cora, along with her amiable colleagues and her frustration with the systems she works in, could be put down into a crime novel in any setting. They are comfortingly familiar, happily unique, but fitting to a mould (and a certain type of story). This story and Cora act as anchors for the reader in the swirling intrigue, conspiracy, history, and vibrant world-building of the city of Fenest and the world beyond.
As the book progresses, the stakes are raised. More of the disparate world of Fenest is unveiled in the nested narratives of stories told within stories, all part of the political machine- all of these stories are presented as fiction within the world. The motives and biases of the tellers must be kept in mind. What is true, and what is simply a good story? All we can do as readers trust in is Cora and what we see through her eyes. As the book progresses, it becomes clear that there are disasters looming and already complete that overshadow even the stark augers of the storytellers- Cora must link back to her own past and the story of her life to unravel what this could mean for Fenest.
The Stitcher and the Mute continues the excellent tempo and fluidity of Widow’s Welcome and opens us out to a wider world, revealing further the customs and oddities of the varying people of Fenest. How much of this is true perhaps remains to be seen, but as Cora moves past stories and begins to see with her own eyes the stark reality of what lies at the edge of the Union of Realms and begins to take agency within her own story beyond the roles expected of her, we can expect more intrigue and revelation to come.