A serial killer is loose on the streets of London, murdering apparently random members of the gentry with violent abandon. The corpses are each found with their chest cavities cracked open and their hearts removed. Charles Bainbridge, Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, suspects an occult significance to the crimes and brings Newbury and Veronica in to investigate.
Do you know those books you love so much you cannot help but give a 5* rating, even though they have their flaws? This is one of those books for me…
We once again find ourselves in the company of Sir Newbury and Miss Hobbes, as well as their friend inspector Bainbridge in a steampunk, Victorian London. Mann has done a very good job in the previous books in the series to naturally build the relationship between these three characters, making it very enjoyable to read about their adventures and banter. This makes the questions that are raised in this story about who can be trusted all the more effective.
What I also find a very strong point in this book are the chapters from the point of view of the Executioner. It doesn’t necessarily make the reader compassionate, but it helps to create a form of understanding as to the why. It is also very interesting to see certain scenes from the point of view of both the good and the bad guys. All of this leads to a very satisfying ending.
As one can imagine, a killer who steals their victims’ heart makes for some not very pretty crime scenes. I adore George Mann’s books because he manages to put in just the right amount of gore for my tastes. He doesn’t shy away from describing all the blood and mutilated bodies, but it never feels overdone just to impress and disgust the reader.
The action scenes are another thing that are very well put together in this series of books. They are excellently written, gripping, not unbelievably over the top, and well spaced throughout the story.
So what are these flaws I mentioned at the start? First of all, there are a lot of references to cases that do not feature in the main books of the series, but rather (I think, for I have not read these) the in between novellas (like book 1.5 and 1.6). One was still able to follow the story, and I believe if these references were used a few times it could have added something. But in here it was done so often it became fairly annoying. Another thing that wasn’t handled well in this book was that it was incredibly obvious, to me at least, who was behind it all. Even without the very in your face foreshadowing, it was very clear who was the bad guy.
Overall, this was yet another great addition to this series of books. If you have not yet done so, I highly recommend picking up this series which is one of the betters in its genre. I guess I should give this a 4.5* rating, which I will than round up to a 5*.