It is 1901 in Victorian London. Queen Victoria is being kept alive by an elaborate mechanical breathing device. She employs Sir Maurice Newberry, an anthropologist at the British Museum with a penchant for the occult, as a secret investigator. Victoria Hobbes is his new assistant, an intelligent, resourceful partner for the work Sir Maurice does. This London has steam-powered taxis, airships, and automatons, as well as a mysterious disease turning folk in the poorer sections of the city into zombie-like revenants, a glowing blue policeman who may be a ghost, automatons going beserk, a possible mad scientist, and a missing man. Sir Maurice and Miss Hobbes must figure out if any- or all- of the above are related and solve the various mysteries before more people end up missing or dead.
It’s not a bad book, not really. It is a little slow, with a lot of talking (over cups of Earl Grey tea, mostly), although where there is action, it is fast-paced and exciting, if a little exxagerated. Characters are rounded and interesting, for the most part. Sir Maurice comes across a bit stiff at times. He does have a laudanum addiction which adds a measure of weakness and vulenrability, things that are nice to see in a main character. The mystery moves along quite nicely until near the end where there are a couple things that seemed just a bit too convenient. The writing style was rather stilted, trying a little too hard to evoke a Victorian ambiance.
This was not the best Victorian era steampunk story I have read, but it is certainly not one I would say don’t read. There are some clever ideas here, and if it is a bit stiff at times, it’s not a difficult read, and was entertaining.
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