Admittedly, there aren’t a lot reasons to review this 12 years old book by David Bishop now, but one is enough: I just finished reading it for the first time.
I generally do not expect a lot from novels in roleplaying settings, and my expectations usually get fulfilled. Thus, I primarily read them to get a better feel for the game world they’re set in. If the writing or the story is actually good, that’s a plus. Sometimes, however, they’re so abysmal that it hurts.
A Murder in Marienburg isn’t one of those novels which hurt to read, but it is also not one I would enjoy if it wasn’t set in a favorite game world of mine (the Old World from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, in case you’re not aware). Its title promises a murder mystery plot, but the story doesn’t really deliver. Instead, it focusses on how bleak and brutal everything, and how currupt and calleous everyone is – yes, I get it, the world of Warhammer is grim and dark (and that’s one of the reasons I love it!), but the events portrayed feel like the author is fulfilling a quota, and stretch the believability of the setting. Especially the end seems downright schematic and completely unrealistic (yes, it’s a fantasy setting, but even fantasy needs internal consistency), and is the most disappointing part of the book.
On the plus side, the novel delivers what I hoped it would: An atmospheric description of (a part of) the largest port in the Old World, bringing it to life in a way that the roleplaying supplements cannot quite achieve. I also like (most of) its characterizations, even though they do not always fit the narrative organically. As for the writing style: It starts out a bit doggerel, but either improves in the course of the novel, or I got used to it.
So, if you’re interested in learning more about one of the greatest roleplaying settings, I strongly recommend A Murder in Marienburg to you. If, on the other hand, you’re just looking for a good fantasy novel, you should better look elsewhere.