THE IMMORALITY ENGINE
By George Mann
It would be nice if publishers were uniform in how they dispensed their titles to reviewers but alas, that is not the case. Rather they simply hand copies to various marketing associates in their home offices and these men and women mail out the books to their individual lists of reviewers. Which is why, after having send us “The Executioner’s Heart,” the fourth book in the Newbury & Hobbes Investigation series (which we absolutely loved and reviewed months ago), we were then gifted with third installment, “The Immorality Engine.”
Of course it’s always awkward reading any series backwards, but the simple truth is we so loved these characters we simply dove into the tale and kept our fingers crossed it wouldn’t be too difficult to understand what was what.
Mann is a steampunk writer and the world his characters inhabit is filled with airships and steam-powered Hansom cabs that weave their way through the streets of Victorian London dodging the more traditional horse-driven models. Both Sir Morris Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes are special agents of Queen Victoria; an aged monarch now living via the workings of a clockwork mechanism. The case begins when the duo is recruited by Scotland Yard Inspector Charles Bainbridge to investigate two murders of the same man. It seems the morgue has two corpses belonging to a burglar named Edwin Skyes but Sykes had no siblings; these are not twins nor merely look-alike individuals. Newbury quickly comes to the inescapable conclusion that one body is in fact a replica of the other. In other words someone has developed the process of human cloning.
At the same time, Veronica is concerned for her sister Amelia’s well-being. Amelia is residing in a sanitarium because of her epileptic-like seizures which, when they occur, allow her to see the future. She is under the private care of the Queen’s own personal physician, Dr. Fabian. All should be fine and yet Veronica has her suspicions as to why Her Majesty is interested in her sister’s well being. Could the Queen be manipulating Fabian to discover the source of Amelia’s prophetic abilities for her own gains?
Thus both investigators find themselves dealing with two totally different cases. Or so they believe until they come in contact with a secret society whose antiquated beliefs in spiritual rebirth may threaten the entire government. From this point on there are attempted murders at every twist and turn to include attacks by incredible mechanical monsters; all to stop Newbury and Hobbes from finding the truth.
Once again Mann delivers a fantastic page turner that kept this reader thrilled and delighted from the opening scene to the last. “The Immorality Engine,” is everything one would accept from a colorful, imaginative steampunk adventure. Meanwhile, we definitely need to pick up books one and two.