Blood Follows by Steven Erikson
Synopsis from GoodReads:
All is not well in Lamentable Moll. A sinister, diabolical killer stalks the port city’s narrow, barrow-humped streets, and panic grips the citizens like a fever. Emancipor Reese is no exception, and indeed, with his legendary ill luck, it’s worse for him than for most. Not only was his previous employer the unknown killer’s latest victim, but Emancipor is out of work. And, with his dearest wife terminally comfortable with the manner of life to which she asserts she has become accustomed (or at least to which she aspires) — for her and their two whelps — all other terrors grow limp and pale for poor Emancipor. But perhaps his luck has finally changed, for two strangers have come to Lamentable Moll… and they have nailed to the centre post in Fishmonger’s Round a note requesting the services of a manservant. This is surely a remarkable opportunity for the hapless Emancipor Reese… no matter that the note reeks with death-warded magic; no matter that the barrow ghosts themselves howl with fear every night; and certainly no matter that Lamentable Moll itself is about to erupt in a frenzy of terror-inspired anarchy….
That summary is almost longer than the novella.
I kid, I kid. But, honestly, I think Blood Follows is the shortest of the Malazan novellas that follow Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, mostly, from what I can gather, before they appear in the main series, clocking in at less than 100 pages of large font and chapter-breaks for scene changes (in my edition, at least).
While the main series of Malazan novels have a wide range of emotions and themes, this novella is a lot more narrow in focus. The main emotion it evoked in me was a dark humor, mingled with a bit of horror. The horror, however, was always at a remove. This is a bit atypical of Erikson, whose evocative prose is usually quite adept at conveying horror, gore, sorrow, and so much more. I have to wonder if he found himself constrained by the novella format, both in the scenes he chose to tell rather than show and in the words that normally allow him to convey a much greater depth of feeling.
If you’re looking for a short, vaguely creepy October read and you don’t mind not knowing much about the wider world and don’t care about missing in jokes, then you might enjoy the murder mystery in this short. Certainly Sergeant Guld is a man you can root for, although Emancipor Reese rather less so, and those who have read the main series might even find themselves rooting for Korbal Broach, or at least Bauchelain.
Overall, however, while this novella answered the question of ‘how did Emancipor Reese fall in with those two?’, it left a lot to be desired when compared to what I know Erikson can do. I’m hoping that the next – longer – novella will answer that.