Newbury has sunk further into his opium addiction, fuelled in part by what he sees as Veronica's betrayal and his inability to confront her on the matter of her relationship with the Queen. However, when the body of a well known criminal turns up, Bainbridge and Veronica manage to track Newbury down, lounging in an opium den, and drag him out to help them with the case. Things are not as they at first seem. The body is clearly, irrefutably, that of the man in question, but whilst the body was in the morgue a crime has been committed that bears all the hallmarks of the dead man. The criminal is a compulsive (OCD), and they fear someone is committing copycat crimes. But Newbury is not sure. Somehow, the detail is too perfect for it to be a copycat. But how can a dead man commit a crime? Investigations draw a connection between the dead criminal and The Bastion Society, a group of rich society gentlemen with a shared fascination in the occult. On the surface these men appear to be nothing but amateurs and hoaxers, but it soon becomes clear that there are more sinister machinations at work behind the scenes. They are obsessed with the worship of the dead. And all the while, the dead man continues to commit crimes around the city. Eventually, it all comes back to Dr. Lucius Fabian, personal physician to the Queen and Head of the Grayling Institute, the place where Amelia Hobbes, the clairvoyant sister of Veronica, was installed at the behest of the Queen during the latter chapters of The Osiris Ritual. Newbury and Veronica pay a visit to the Institute, and are appalled to discover what has become of Amelia. She is lashed into a terrible machine which induces seizures, over and over, forcing her to predict the future for the good of the Empire. And more, the Institute contains secrets that could shatter the Empire. But the key to the mystery is here, also. For Fabian has constructed a machine that makes a facsimile of a person, weaving an exact copy of them in a tank. The machine is incomplete, however, and the copy lacks the spark of life. The hearts of these creations are still and dead. The plans for this machine have been stolen, however, and The Bastion Society have funded a machine to be built. The body of the criminal that was found is clearly not the original, who is still at large. But what do The Bastion Society want with these artificial cadavers? And how can Newbury and Veronica help to free Amelia from her terrible fate? And then the even bigger question - can they ever trust each other again? All of this - along with Newbury's opium addiction - will come to a head, and by the end, Newbury & Veronica's relationship will never be the same again.
George Mann is the author of The Affinity Bridge, Ghosts of Manhattan and The Human Abstract, as well as numerous short stories, novellas and an original Doctor Who audiobook.
'Mann is at the forefront of the new generation of UK genre movers and shakers.' SFRevu.com 'The author does a superb job of recreating nineteenth century London...a thoroughly engaging story.' SF Signal 'Mann is leading the charge.' The Guardian 'Fans of Alan Moore's work will likely enjoy Mann's depiction of Victorian asylums, slums, aristocratic soirees and things that go bump in the night.' Strange Horizons 'A carefully plotted and entertaining steampunk mystery.' SciFi.com '[Mann] has a sharp talent for writing and a surplus of enthusiasm for the genre' Sci Fi Now 'Highly, highly recommended' fantasybookcritic.com
April 1, 2011