Today I finished the fourth book of the Newbury and Hobbes Investigation series by George Mann. Now I have to wait until February (tentative) for the fifth book! Geez. This is why I hate reading series before they’re complete.
It wasn’t so bad with the first few books because the endings were tied up neatly without any major characters in mortal peril for the moment. There were hints at trouble on the horizon, of course, but the end of the book represented a breather of sorts for the delicious duo.
But #4, The Executioner’s Heart, ends on much more of a cliffhanger. The main plot is still tied up, but there are so many extra threads (and a significant side plot) that are going to carry over, and I need to know what’s going to happen.
A brief overview of the series: Sir Maurice Newbury and his assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes are both agents of Queen Victoria in a steampunk age. Sir Maurice is an expert on the occult, and Veronica is an expert at being a kickass investigator in her own right. Of course, she does still play second fiddle most of the time while she and her boss help their buddy Sir Charles Bainbridge, Chief Inspector for Scotland Yard (and former/sort of current agent of the queen) solve murders around London.
It’s a pretty wild ride. Sometimes the books take a little while to get going (the fourth one is particularly guilty of this) but once the action starts rolling it doesn’t really stop. The action generally is easy to follow and reads swiftly; most of the time it involves Maurice getting his butt handed to him before somehow turning the tables or being rescued by Veronica.
The steampunk style setting provides some really interesting plot twists, too. It doesn’t just serve as a backdrop but often makes the plots possible in the first place. Actually, I’d say it is integral to the main plot in all four books. The medical wonders of the age (like the executioner’s heart in the 4th book and the queen’s magic medical chair in all of the books) are particularly fascinating, though the automatons are also pretty cool. And deadly. Even Maurice’s clockwork owl is important at one point.
The first book makes a big deal of a “revenant plague” sweeping through the poorer sections of London after being imported from India, but it barely gets a nod in the following books. I’m hoping that it will make a comeback in #5 as the working title is The Revenant Express. Can’t wait til February!
Now I just have to find a new series to occupy my time. Oh wait, I still haven’t finished Book #2 of A Song of Ice and Fire. I think A Clash of Kings is calling me.