Steampunk detectives knocking around in London pea-soupers solving potentially supernatural mysteries? Why the hell have I not got around to reading these before? Clearly the omnipotent Book Pot agreed with me, for just as I had resolved to read the first Newbury and Hobbes mystery as my ‘free choice’ book, it spat out The Affinity Bridge as my next ‘dictated choice’. And so I devoured it in roughly two days.
Let’s be honest: I was very unlikely not to enjoy this book, playing as it does to all my favourite genre touchstones. That said, given my yen for steampunk detectivising, it would have been easy for it have turned out to be a let-down, but thankfully it was no such thing: appropriately atmospheric (the evocation of a smog-shrouded and slightly grimy London is evoked better than a number of other similar works I’ve read) with a mystery the right side of convoluted that — miraculously, because I always find this to a huge flaw with detective novels — arrives at its conclusion without having either telegraphed the solution nor arrived so out of the blue that it’s would have been frustratingly impossible to work it out for myself.
As for Newbury and Hobbes themselves–they’re an interesting pair, if slightly at the whim of the narrative in this novel, though I suspect with a clutch of future books continuing their story there’s plenty of room to explore them further as characters. For the most part, the more fantastical elements of the steampunk world creep in around the edges of the narrative without over-egging it with a parade of the genre tropes, but there’s more than enough to keep the world interesting–the mechanically-augmented Queen Victoria being the memorable highlight. So all round a solid, entertaining read and (crucially, I suspect) more than enough that I nipped straight onto the tinterwebs and ordered the rest of the series, which I aim to read very shortly (if the Book Pot doesn’t intervene first.)