Reviewed by Selina Lock
Queen Victoria’s life has been extended past its normal span due to the ingenuity of her personal physician Dr Lucius Fabien, and his clockwork breathing apparatus. She still rules her Empire with a rod of iron will and expects complete obedience from agents of the Crown, such as Sir Maurice Newbury, Miss Veronica Hobbes and Sir Charles Bainbridge of Scotland Yard
The trio are called in to investigate a spate of robberies which fit the MO of a suspected thief and murderer, only to find the suspect himself was murdered several days earlier. This intriguing conundrum leads them into fights with vicious mechanical spiders, an explosive carriage ride and breaking into the premises of the mysterious and powerful Bastion Society. Meanwhile, Veronica’s sister Amelia is being forced to undergo painful treatments while in the care of Dr Fabien and his half cybernetic assistant; the palace is being fortified after an assassination attempt on the Queen and nobody knows who to trust any more.
The Holmes homages come through quite clearly in the book; for example Newbury is enticed from an opium den due to the mystery of the case, but Mann manages to create characters that stand apart from their Conan Doyle counterparts. Particularly in the case of Hobbes, who shows herself to be a very capable agent of the Crown. However, I felt the main characters lacked a little depth considering the major revelations in this book that affect all their relationships. This may be because it’s the third book in the Newbury and Hobbes series and earlier character development may have been an important part of the arc. This said, I felt Mann makes Amelia’s plight tug at the heart strings and the malevolence of the Queen oozes from the page. Where the book really shines is the action sequences which showcase the steampunk monsters and elements Mann has created.
Overall, enjoy it as a good Victorian inspired steampunk detective novel.