Release Date: January 31, 2011
More info: Amazon
In a time of grand airships and steam-powered cars, the death of a penniless young maid will hardly make the front page. But part-time airship waitress and music hall dancer Julia Bairstow is shattered by her sister's murder. When Lady Law, the most notorious private detective in Britain, offers to investigate the case pro bono, Julia jumps at the chance—even against the a
...moreIn a time of grand airships and steam-powered cars, the death of a penniless young maid will hardly make the front page. But part-time airship waitress and music hall dancer Julia Bairstow is shattered by her sister's murder. When Lady Law, the most notorious private detective in Britain, offers to investigate the case pro bono, Julia jumps at the chance—even against the advice of Constable Al Grant, who takes her protection surprisingly to heart.
Lady Law puts Scotland Yard to shame. She's apprehended Jack the Ripper and solved countless other cold-case crimes. No one knows how she does it, but it's brought her fortune, renown and even a title. But is she really what she claims to be—a genius at deducting? Or is Al right and she is not be trusted?
Julia is determined to find out the truth, even if it means turning sleuth herself—and turning the tables on Lady Law...
I have not read much steampunk but this one sounded intriguing, a mix of steampunk, mystery and romance by a new to me author. I like mixed genre stories, when done well. This one comes off okay but I think Appleton may have been overly ambitious. Though, I have to give him credit for trying and for taking chances.
There's action, steam powered weapons, giant artificial planets, steam powered automobiles, and lots of other technical gadgets that I couldn't quite figure out but I have never been a very technological person. The technical gadgets end up being essential to the story, which, since it's a steampunk, they should be. At first, they didn't seem necessary and I wondered why Appleton chose to make it steampunk but in the end it worked. The action scenes, though usually exciting, were hard for me to visualize with all of the technical things thrown in; trying to visualize it all was difficult for me. The story line was intriguing but I would have liked to have seen more character development. This might have worked better as a full length novel.
It's primarily a mystery with a side helping of romance. The romance, between Julia and Al Grant, the constable investigating her sister Georgy's murder, happens slowly. It starts with him providing comforting words and reassurance after Georgy's death and builds up as the investigation progresses. At first, Julia doesn't know whether or not to trust him. Neither she or her sister are of any importance socially thus fall low in the priority list of the police yet he is dogged in pursuing the case, and she knows that he does not like Lady Law, who has offered her services, gratis. Grant is determined to investigate, but has been unsuccessful and Julia fears that his dislike of Lady Law is impeding his ability to accept help in the case. She is unaware, initially, that Grant and Law have a history. While I appreciated that Appleton didn't have Grant and Julia immediately jump all over each but let their attraction build over the course of the investigation, I do wish that he'd either spent more time on it or skipped it all together. At times, it feels as the romance was added purely to attract more female readers. I don't know that that's what happened but it felt that way to me.
Julia is willing to accept any help she can get, even though she wonders why Law is so willing to help. On the one hand she admires Law's independence and her ability to succeed in a man's world but she is also suspicious of Law's generous offer. She ends up accepting Law's help but has misgivings about the results. With Al's willing help, and that of semi-retired adventurer Sir Horace Holly, who also has an interest in the investigation into Georgy's death, they unearth Lady Law's secrets and find out the truth about Georgy's death.
The story gets a bit convoluted and there are some deus ex machina moments, but it's a fairly quick read and both Grant and Julia are likable, as is Sir Holly.
**This review has been edited and revised from the original version that appeared on this blog**
This eARC was received from.NetGalley.