A Holmes and Watson–style detective duo take the stage in this fantasy with a mystery twist, from the Edgar-winning, multiple Hugo-nominated Robert Jackson Bennett.

Body horror, murder.

In Daretana’s greatest mansion, a high imperial officer lies dead—killed, to all appearances, when a tree erupted from his body. Even here at the Empire’s borders, where contagions abound and the blood of the leviathans works strange magical changes, it’s a death both terrifying and impossible.

Assigned to investigate is Ana Dolabra, a detective whose reputation for brilliance is matched only by her eccentricities. Rumor has it that she wears a blindfold at all times, and that she can solve impossible cases without even stepping outside the walls of her home.

At her side is her new assistant, Dinios Kol, magically altered in ways that make him the perfect aide to Ana’s brilliance. Din is at turns scandalized, perplexed, and utterly infuriated by his new superior—but as the case unfolds and he watches Ana’s mind leap from one startling deduction to the next, he must admit that she is, indeed, the Empire’s greatest detective.

As the two close in on a mastermind and uncover a scheme that threatens the Empire itself, Din realizes he’s barely begun to assemble the puzzle that is Ana Dolabra—and wonders how long he’ll be able to keep his own secrets safe from her piercing intellect.

By an “endlessly inventive” (Vulture) author with a “wicked sense of humor” (NPR), The Tainted Cup mixes the charms of detective fiction with brilliant world-building to deliver a fiendishly clever mystery that’s at once instantly recognizable and thrillingly new.

Don't just take our word for it...

“Original, imaginative, and suspenseful, The Tainted Cup superbly blends mystery and fantasy in this vivid, complex novel. I couldn’t put it down. Give me more of this world and these characters ASAP!”
– Meg Gardiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the UNSUB series

“Part Sherlock Holmes murder mystery, part Through the Looking-Glass, The Tainted Cup is one of the wildest, most original stories I’ve ever had the privilege to explore. I am in awe of Bennett’s creativity, the intricate plotting, and this immersive world filled with mushroom air conditioners, killer trees, and giant leviathans that stretch the imagination. I loved every second of it. This is a book that has planted roots in my head for the rest of my life.”
– Wesley Chu, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The War Arts Saga

“A riveting murder mystery wrapped in a twisty conspiracy, set in a vivid fantasy world terrorized by eldritch monsters . . . If you love unique, genre-bending, boundary-pushing fantasy as much as I do, look no further than Robert Jackson Bennett.”
– Fonda Lee, World Fantasy Award–winning author of the Green Bone Saga

Taste the very first page

The walls of the estate emerged from the morning fog before me, long and dark and rounded like the skin of some beached sea creature. I walked along them, trying to ignore the flutter of my heart and the trickle of sweat down my neck. A faint blue light glimmered in the mist ahead. With each step it calcified into a mai-lantern hanging above the estate’s servants’ gate; and there, leaning against the walls beside the gate, was the figure of a uniformed man in a shining steel cap waiting for me.

The princeps watched me approach. He cocked an eyebrow at me, and it climbed higher up his forehead the closer I came to him. By the time I’d finally stopped before him it’d almost joined the hair atop his head.

I cleared my throat in what I hoped was an authoritative manner, and said, “Signum Dinios Kol, assistant to the investigator. I’m here about the body.”

The princeps blinked, then looked me up and down. Being as I was nearly a head taller than him, it took him a moment. “I see, sir,” he said. He gave me a short bow—a quarter of a full bow, maybe a third—but then did not move.

“You do have a body, yes?” I asked.

“Well, we do, sir,” he said slowly. He glanced over my shoulder down the fog-strewn lane behind me.

“Then what seems to be the issue?”