25 September, 2009

Review: The Osiris Ritual, by George Mann

The Osiris Ritual (2009) [US] [UK], by George Mann is second book in the Newbury & Hobbes Investigations series. There will be six books in the series.

All started in 2008 with the publishing of The Affinity Bridge [US] [UK] which had a lot to offer. Imagine an alternate version of London. The year is 1901. Airships cruise the sky. Hansoms face upcoming steam-powered cabs. Servants and laborers have to cope with automatons. Queen Victoria is still alive but avoids public. Who won't be afraid to see a Queen who is no more longer 100% human. Mechanization does not exclude the human body. Several organizations are responsible for the safety of the Queen, country and inhabitants. Of course not all work in public.
Come with me, dive into this vibrant city and discover their secrets and take a look at the abyss of the human soul. Be aware of people with eyes, the color of London fog....

The Setup

London, February 1902
We - the reader of The Affinity Bridge - are back. And you who visit this version of London for the first time - get ready to meet Sir Maurice Ashbury, Gentleman Investigator for the Crown. A man with a brilliant brain but a weakness for drugs like laudanum and opium. Or as what he says himself about opium:
"It (opium) was fuel for his mind, but poison for his body." [page 79]
Fortunately he don't investigate alone. Le me introduce the encouraged and straightforward Miss Veronica Hobbes, who is a bit more than just a plain assistant. She has to take care on her sister Amelia, who is a bit mysterious. Sir Maurice can rely on the resolute Chief Inspector Sir Charles Bainbridge.

And now the story takes place....

The famous but egocentric explorer Lord Henry Winthrop has returned form his successful expedition to Egypt.
The unwrap of the bindings of the mummified remains of an ancient Theban King has been announced as the society event of the year. And yes, Sir Maurice has been invited like the young correspondent of The Times - George Purefoy. These are the ingredients of one of the main threads. Remember the title of the book.........

Caspian, an undercover agent in St. Petersburg is on his unauthorized return to London. Sir Maurice got the order from Queen Victoria to meet the agent and escort him to the palace. As you can imagine this simple task turns into something dark and strange.....

In the past months several girls disappeared. This disappearing is connected with the stage magician Alfonso. Veronica is deeply involved to solve this case.....

I don't want to tell you more. But I promise you will be surprised how these threads are mingled. And there will be a solution in the end...

My Take in Brief

First of all it is possible to read this book as a stand-alone. But in case you do this you will miss the good previous story and you will miss the development of the main characters. And that is important because the characters are one of the highlights of the books. Each of them if far from perfect. The opium addiction of Maurice is just one example for this. And to be honest each of the main characters has a weakness. Mr. Mann's depiction of a steampunk London is awesome.
Beside this I like the way how Mr. Mann mingles steampunk, London, mystery and his characters to an unforgettable mix.
And all this is done in a style which I appreciate. You start to read and then you are sucked in. The not to long chapters support this. It never gets boring and there is enough room for your own speculations. You know more about the characters than the characters about themselves. But you don't know more about the threads than the characters know. That is another thing I really like. The Osiris Ritual is a book which keeps your interest page by page. The action is well dosed. Which means you get time to catch a breath.
I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

Bona Fide's Book Oracle

This time my inner book critic and I have had a kind of jigsaw conversation, which showed that we both appreciate this superb book. "Lon" "don" our favorite town. We love "Steam" "punk". "Se" "crets" are always welcome. "Re" "venge" is a powerful emotion "Hot" "pursuits" afoot on roofs, by steam tricycles, during day or night speed up the story. "Cha" "racters" well developed make it easy to connect with.
What does this mean? The Osiris Ritual offers all ingredients we like to see mixed together. We highly recommend this book - and of course the whole series - to all of you who have a foible for mystery, characters with secrets and avidities, a story with more than one thread, airships, submersives, automatons, steam-driven cabs all placed in a great city. Buy it, read it , love it.

More George Mann

You should know that it makes a difference whether you buy hardcover or paperback editions of the books.
The hardcover editions contain one or two additional short stories. As I read only the paperback versions I don't know the short stories. But I can support you with the reading order of all published Newbury & Hobbes stories

The Affinity Bridge (2008) [US] [UK] - first book of the series
The Humbleton Affair (2008) - short story, available in The Affinity Bridge hardcover
The Shattered Teacup - short story, available as free download pdf and mp3
The Osiris Ritual (2009) [US] [UK] - second book of the series
What Lies Beneath (2009) - short story, available in The Osiris Ritual
The Immorality Engine
(2010) [US][UK] - third book of the series

Anyway 2010 will be a George Mann year. Beside the publishing of The Immorality Engine, the first book of a second series, Ghost of Manhattan [US] [UK], will hit the book stores. Settled in an alternate version of New York around 1926 including steampunk and mobster. Read the mouth-watering blurb:
"1926. New York. The Roaring Twenties. Jazz. Flappers. Prohibition. Coal-powered cars. A cold war with a British Empire that still covers half of the globe. Yet things have developed differently to established history. America is in the midst of a cold war with a British Empire that has only just buried Queen Victoria, her life artificially preserved to the age of 107. Coal-powered cars roar along roads thick with pedestrians, biplanes take off from standing with primitive rocket boosters and monsters lurk behind closed doors and around every corner. This is a time in need of heroes. It is a time for The Ghost. A series of targeted murders are occurring all over the city, the victims found with ancient Roman coins placed on their eyelids after death. The trail appears to lead to a group of Italian-American gangsters and their boss, who the mobsters have dubbed 'The Roman'. However, as The Ghost soon discovers, there is more to The Roman than at first appears, and more bizarre happenings that he soon links to the man, including moss-golems posing as mobsters and a plot to bring an ancient pagan god into the physical world in a cavern beneath the city. As The Ghost draws nearer to The Roman and the centre of his dangerous web, he must battle with foes both physical and supernatural and call on help from the most unexpected of quarters if he is to stop The Roman and halt the imminent destruction of the city." [Source]