Mossa is a detective who is always three steps ahead, and Malka Older is likewise an author five steps ahead. The first third of this breezy, witty story is a cozy mystery in the least cozy place in human history. Valdegard is a liminal space that feels connected to every University on Earth. You’ve got a reassuring sense of suspended academia: intelligence in the clouds, run by intelligentsia with their heads in clouds of their own. There’s frequent tea and pastries, University politics, late trains, the sort of ramshackle intellectual ecology where many academics thrive. It’s snug and welcoming, nostalgic, and quietly, definitively suffocating.