The Immorality Engine (A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation – review

By on January 7, 2012

It’s that festive time of year! Eggnog, presents, and Steampunk–who could ask for more? And who does Steampunk better than George Mann? The third novel in his Newbury & Hobbes series, The Immorality Engine, is reason enough to celebrate this joyous holiday season. Charles Dickens’s Tiny Tim perhaps put it best when he said: “God bless Steampunk everyone!” So, buy The Immortality Engine by the barrel-full or truck-load, and that’s my review, Merry Holiday Season!

Perhaps I should say a few words about what the book is about, though, and I’m definitely not just writing more because I have the editor’s gun pointed at my head.

Our favorite Steampunk Holmesian detective, Sir Maurice Newbury, has been pursuing his addictions to both the occult and opium with abandon as the third account of his adventures with his crime-solving partner, Veronica Hobbes, opens. Their mutual friend on the force, Sir Charles Bainbridge, is confronted with a case that has crossed the borders into the supernatural. He wants the assistance of Newbury, but to obtain it, he and Veronica must travel to the opium den which Newbury has been frequenting of late.

They are shocked at the condition they find their friend in. Newbury is sallow-faced, lying on ornate pillows with other addicts in an opium house. At first, upon seeing him, Bainbridge wonders not only if Newbury can be saved, but also if he should be saved. Can Newbury’s drug-addled brain be brought back to its former sharpness and brilliance long enough to help Bainbridge solve the mysterious Sykes case?

The Sykes case: Edwin Sykes is perhaps the best burglar in London, and he has a very distinctive style, utilizing mechanical spiders to cut holes in doors and break into the establishments he robs. Though Bainbridge has long suspected Sykes and is well aware of his modus operandi, neither he nor anyone else has been able to pin anything on him. Even after death, while lying in the morgue, Sykes has been committing robberies–or, is it someone who merely is copying Sykes’s style? But the problem is, the details are far too perfect for the crimes to have been committed by a copycat. Still, what use is money to a dead man? And how does the mysterious Bastion Society, of which Sykes is a member, enter into the case?

Besides the Sykes case, Newbury (a Gentleman Investigator to the Crown) and Hobbes must deal with the mutual attraction that has been building between them in The Affinity Bridge and The Osiris Ritual. Also, there is the strain of knowing each other’s respective secrets. Veronica knows that he is a Gentleman Investigator to the Crown, and he knows that she is an agent of Queen Victoria sent to keep an eye on him.

To further complicate matters, Veronica’s younger sister, Amelia, is under the watchful care of Dr. Lucien Fabien, Queen Victoria’s personal physician, at the Grayling Institute. She has been making progress, gaining back some of the weight that she had lost due to her psychotic breaks with reality. But her visions during these times have proven to be very useful to Newbury and Hobbes in the past, and there is the possibility that her “cure” might be worse for her than her illness. Her treatment consists of daily multiple injections that cause her to scream out in agony.

And then there’s the perverse cybernetic automaton that Fabien constructed from the ruined body of his assistant, Mr. Calverton. Amelia has an uneasy feeling whenever Calverton is around her, as if the automaton might have unnatural motives to involve himself in her care and treatments.

All of this would be more than enough to keep even the great Sherlock Holmes himself busy, but then there’s also the attempted assassination of Queen Victoria to occupy any spare moment Newbury and Hobbes might have. The palace is fortified after the attempt, and no one knows whom to trust. Queen Victoria is more machine than person, herself, kept alive by Dr. Fabien’s mechanical expertise. He is extremely intelligent, but by prolonging lives, does the doctor also create monsters?

The Immorality Engine by George Mann, the third book in his Newbury & Hobbes series, has all of the marvelous inventive touches of its predecessors, such as revenants and steam-powered dirigibles, and twists and turns enough to satisfy the most jaded fans of the mystery and Steampunk genres. It’s a worthy addition to the series and can be also enjoyed as a stand-alone book. The first two novels in the series, The Affinity Engine and The Osiris Ritual, are extremely well-written, as well. I highly reccommend that you read all of the books in the Newbury & Hobbes series–check them out today!

About Douglas Cobb

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