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Review: The Affinity Bridge by George Mann (Snowbooks)

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The Affinity Bridge by George Mann
Published by Snowbooks and Out Now

There are a few things going on with The Affinity Bridge. It’s a page-turner, a detective story, it features Queen Victoria, it has spies, and it’s steampunk to name but a few of them. It’s quite a pot that George Mann is throwing ideas into.

It could be a mess and a bad pastiche of steampunk-Colan-Doyle-style as it does draw heavily from the idea of gentlemen detectives and the troubles of the upper-classes.  But Mann has made it work. I was totally absorbed into his creation.

Simply he’s put his own stamp on everything.  The streampunk is understated but integral. Foremost, this is a detective novel and Newbury and Hobbes have a mystery to solve. Actually two mysteries but the first, the death of peasants is overtaken by the crash of an airship, a case that is of far more important to the Crown.

Mann challenges the thinking of the time with Sir Maurice Newbury’s assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes. Hobbes is in striking difference to his secretary Miss Coulthard, who is unable to function after the disappearance of her brother, which she suspects is at the hands of revenants who are stalking to the poorer areas of London. Hobbes on the other hand doesn’t think twice about hitching up her skirt and kicking the odd door from its hinges.

Mann grabs you by the scruff of the neck and throws you into his version of Victorian London, though I’m not taking any guesses at what year it is or how long Queen Victoria has been on the thrown and you’ll know why when you first meet her. He keeps the plot flying along. Newbury and Hobbes are fascinating in their own right but combined with the story Mann makes this a book that’s hard to put down and a world that’s hard to leave.

That isn’t to stay that it doesn’t have some weaknesses. There are a few action sequences, which are mostly well done but you get the feeling that Mann is enjoying himself too much in some places and that could they could have been cut down a little. I’m glad they are in there as they make for a nice change of tone from the politeness that Newbury usually exhibits.

There are a few words and phrases that jar every now and again and this is more to do with how well Mann captures the language of the time that when they get repeated you notice.  But the banter and the dialogue is first rate.

Newbury is a gentlemen spy so his nemesis is a gentlemen of sorts. And the cat and mouse game that they play is teasing and fun. You can’t take this tale too seriously though the main characters have strong emotional connections and they have a believable fondness for each other. Mann has given The Affinity Bridge a strong central core and one that can grow and be explored in the next and subsequent books.

And there a few tip bits thrown into this one. Hints at what could happen in the future and what has happened in the past especially from the last scene. Now that was a surprise.

I’m greatly looking forward to seeing the next Newbury and Hobbes adventure, The Osiris Ritual, and I’m hoping that we’ll get to see more of Newbury’s interests in the Dark Arts and what secrets he’s able to tap into.

Highly Recommended

Additional:

I was lucky enough to receive a limited edition signed copy 53/500, which comes with bonus tale: The Hambilton Affair.

It’s a Hobbes-less tale where Newbury recounts an earlier investigation to his friend and Chief Inspector, Sir Charles Bainbridge. It’s a strange little tale of the search for a missing wife and when she’s found it shows that Mann is keen to explore this science in these tales.

It shows as well as that there is room for both a longer and shorter investigations. It will be interesting to see if Mann is able to write enough to come out with a short story collection? I’d buy it.

Bonus:

I’ve just found, but not yet read, another Newbury and Hobbes short story The Shattered Teacup