Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, Sir Maurice Newbury, has brilliantly solved a number of near-impossible cases for Queen Victoria along with his assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes. But while all appears well on the surface, Newbury has an increasingly uncontrollable secret.
What was once a flirtation with the lure of opium has turned into a full-blown addiction for Newbury. Hobbes, along with Newbury’s dear friend Bainbridge, the chief investigator at Scotland Yard, try to cover for him as much as possible, but when the body of a well-known criminal turns up, Bainbridge and Hobbes drag Newbury from an opium den to help them with the case. The body is irrefutably that of the criminal, but shortly after his body is brought to the morgue, a crime is discovered that bears all the dead man’s hallmarks.
Newbury and Hobbes will come face to face with their hardest and darkest investigation to date. These are no copycat killings. But how can a dead man commit a crime?
This series just gets better and better with every book. I really liked The Affinity Bridge, and I loved The Osiris Ritual. But George Mann has done it again, bigger and better.
We once again follow our two main characters, the drug addicted but absolutely brilliant gentleman Maurice Newbury, and the modern, smart and brave Veronica Hobbes. Described in these few words, they seem like your stereotypical 19th century mystery heroes. However, Mann managed to give them something unique. It is an absolute joy to follow these two detectives on their adventures. There may be a bit of romance, but in this case that actually didn’t annoy me as much as it otherwise would. This is because it was executed quite elegantly, and has been build up for the most part of three books. And at no point does it hinder the plot or take to the foreground.
Something I really enjoy in these books is that Mann describes the crime scenes as they are… which I sometimes very gory.
She almost baulked at what she saw. There was blood everywhere. Everywhere she looked: sprayed up the staircase, spattered and pooling on the floor, even dripping – drip by ponderous drip – from the glass chandelier high above them. Jewels lay scattered all around the body, in all manner of colours, shapes and sizes; tiny flecks of beauty in the midst of utter, devastating violence. The corpse itself – or what was left of it – was splayed out upon the tiled floor facedown, its head and right arm thrown up onto the bottom stair. And there was a hole right through the middle of it, a ragged-edged void where the spider thing had chewed through the meat and bone and cartilage, burrowing through the man’s chest and bursting out through his back. Ribbons of shredded intestine hung like pink drapes from around the edges of the hole.
This doesn’t feel like Mann is trying to impress or disgust the audience though. He just tells us how it is.
It is not only a story of character depth, mystery and gore. It is also filled with great action scenes. Newbury and Hobbes have to fight themselves through a wide array of trouble with all different types of villains one can imagine.
Another thing this series does really well is that yes it is steampunk, but it is not in your face. It is not filled with unnecessary gadgets and zeppelins. The machinery is definitely there, but it complements the plot instead of taking the attention away from it. This only makes the world building stronger, making this alternate London feel more real than what we see in some other steampunk stories.
Add to all this some mad doctors, sickly prophets and crazy cults, and you have another great story by the brilliant George Mann. I read this in a single sitting, and have already picked up the fourth book in the series. I cannot recommend enough to pick up this series, which is definitely one of the best in its genre.