I’m of two minds about this book: on one side it was a quick, not unpleasant read, different enough in genre from my usual haunts to be interestingly new; on the other I felt it lacked something – maybe a deeper exploration of the characters, or maybe the willingness to push the envelope a bit further.
The beginning drew me in immediately, with its vivid descriptions of an alternate London at the beginning of the 20th Century, and the presentation of several narrative threads that in the end fused into one big mystery (with zombies, to boot!); and yet toward the middle of the book it all felt a little… stale, for want of a better word, or maybe predictable, and something very close to disappointment settled on me.
One of the two main characters, Veronica Hobbes, is quite interesting and does not suffer from any cliché of the genre: she is indeed a daring heroine yet she suffers from some human failings, and that makes her both believable and likable. Her counterpart Sir Maurice Newbury, on the other hand, has too many points in common with Sherlock Holmes (including a dependence on drugs) to appear truly original.
If the action scenes are quite good, showing the author can build up the narrative tension when he feels like it, they are offset by long explanatory dialogues that do nothing to move the pace – and the story – along.
Those dialogues also feel a little stilted, as if the author were trying hard to conform to the historical period’s speech patterns: he does not do it in a convincing way, though, so that it all feels contrived rather than natural. To make matters worse, at least from my point of view, the repeated use of the term “whilst” transformed soon into an annoyance that kept drawing me further out of the narrative.
It was not enough to make me stop reading, and I did indeed finish the book, but not even an unexpected turn in the epilogue managed to offset that anti-climatic dissatisfaction. I’m more than ready to admit that the fault must lie with me and my tastes, but no matter what, I’m not sure I will be reading any more stories in this series…
My rating: 5/10