Gollancz, h/b, Â£16.99 www.thegoldensprout.com
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
Rankinâ€™s latest work is a foray into the world of steampunk but in his usual, inimitably surrealist, style. If youâ€™ve ever read a Rankin novel youâ€™ll be familiar with his love of word play, alliteration and puns so bad that theyâ€™re pure genius. These abound throughout this novel, which tells the tale of the legendary consulting detective, Cameron Bell (the spitting image of Dickensâ€™ Mr Pickwick) and the music hall acts that are gradually disappearing one by one in puffs of smoke and piles of ash.
Bell has fallen in love with one of the music hall performers – Alice Lovell and her acrobatic kiwi birds – and faces a race against time to find the perpetrator before Alice tops the bill at the Electric Alhambra Music Hall and faces certain death.
In Rankinâ€™s steampunk world, the British Empire has conquered Mars and a truce of some description exists between Venus, Jupiter and the Empire. During his adventures, Bell and his companions face dangerous adversaries from across the solar system.
Fans of Rankin will love this novel but if youâ€™ve never dipped your toe into Rankinâ€™s surreal waters now could be the time with this enjoyable romp across worlds and through space.