out and jumps on it and then has the grace to finish with ‘The End’ and walk away. OK, so this is not that book but if you enjoy a good cliff-hanger and are prepared to put up with or even relish a serial, then why not try ‘Newbury & Hobbes’ and ‘The Executioner’s Heart’.
This likeable duo featured as the odd-ball pairing in two previous outings. Newbury is the English gentleman with an unfortunate addiction and Hobbes is the button-booted Victorian lady who is no shirker in a fight. Together they investigate the strange and mysterious, although usually because they are personally involved in the case. With the policeman sidekick, Sir Charles Bainbridge, it is easy enough to pitch these as the Sherlock and Holmes of the steampunk Victorian era that they are placed in. There is nothing wrong with that as the past is there to be mined and manipulated by any writer and quite frankly who cares if the story holds together.
This time Newbury and Hobbes are confronted with a mysterious apparently motiveless assassin who always takes the heart of their victim; the Executioner. They come into contact once again with the bloated and calculating Queen Victoria, who schemes and plots from her chamber as she clings desperately onto an artificially extended life. As other plot points leap from the page it is surely apparent that we are not in quaint old Victorian times but an alternate version of steam cabs and mechanical mischief makers.
In the old days, these books would be called a penny dreadful as they tell lurid and fantastic tales. George Mann entertains us with a ripping yarn and the cheeky addition of various historical characters who bustle on the page with literary references to ‘The Lost World’ character of Doyle’s Professor Challenger, giant birds and no doubt many other things that I missed completely.
My only slight quibble is I like a bit more humour and less angst with my swashbuckling adventures. I’m more of a Douglas Fairbanks woman than a Russell Crow. For gawd’s sake, lighten up the world is gloomy enough, tuck your skirts in Miss Hobbes and swing from the banisters-chuckle me timbers.
(pub: TOR/Forge. 349 page small hardback. Price: $27.99 (US), $31.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-765-30982-2)