Fog-enshrouded Victorian London is hardly a safe city in this steampunk thriller. A “revenant plague” runs rampant through the East End, turning the infected into decaying cannibals. A mysterious glowing policeman is strangling people to death. And an airship carrying fifty passengers crashes, yet the clockwork automaton piloting it has vanished without a trace. To solve these crimes Scotland Yard turns to Sir Maurice Newberry, anthropologist turned Crown investigator. With the aid of his assistant Veronica Hobbes he apples his intellect (and the occasional fist) towards untangling these mysteries and defeating the Empire’s enemies.
George Mann’s novel is a mystery that evokes the atmospherics of a familiar setting refreshed by its steampunk elements. Yet the book is hampered by pedestrian writing that turns it into little more than a pastiche of familiar elements. The plot itself is primarily a rush of events, with character development implied rather than undertaken. The main protagonist comes across as a pale imitation of Sherlock Homes (must every Victorian detective be an opium addict?), while his relationship with his assistant seems to be little more than a Victorian derivative of the Mulder-Scully dynamic. It all makes for a book that, while an entertaining read, is not one that has much to distinguish it beyond the many other works in the field.