While I enjoyed this last entry in the Saint of Steel series (especially because we do see our favorites from the prior two books!), in a nutshell I think it suffered from 1) being more of a standalone story (with the smooth skin man issue being solved in the prior novel) and 2) the moral of the story overshadowing the main plot as well.
In this novel, we have the story of Gay Galen, who knows for a sure 1000% fact that he doesn’t want to ever be in love! He’s going to do quick one night stands for the rest of his life! Nothing will ever change that for him!
Spoiler alert: something will change that for him, and perhaps it will be Piper, the coroner/mortician who we re-meet with some more descriptions of his hands. And hair. And chest. That being said, Galen lacks a clear characterization other than his no-strings-attached attitude. The arc is pretty set by this point–a paladin will feel like they are Incapable of Love and Broken Beyond Hope and someone will disabuse them of that notion. I do like it! But it does get a bit tedious.
Once again, we have a curious series of murders and no idea who’s done the murdering. Unlike the earlier villain, who had a clear creepy way of murdering people, this time we have a series of bizarre injuries (multiple stabs, way too clean cuts) that indicate some sort of serial killer. The human police inspector assigned to the case is dismissive, but the gnole inspector–one of the first gnoles to join the police force–disagrees. Gnole + paladin + doctor will go and inspect what has happened, and in doing so solve the case.
I think the case is somewhat weak, and it’s clear why it’s basically solved 3/4 of the way through the book…the real case is social inequality and systemic injustice, in this case against gnoles who are relegated to the worst of jobs and very grudgingly incorporated into society at “higher levels” (as one could argue whether joining the police, even in a fictional society, is a higher level). I might have been more on board if the entire book had been about the gnole/human x police/society nuances, and if that part hadn’t been squished into the ending.