The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man (Burton & Swinburne)
by Mark Hodder
Cover Artist: Jon Sullivan
Review by Ellen Russell
Pyr Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616143596
Date: 22 March 2011 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Mark Hodder's The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man is an interesting, if overly complicated story. Burton and Swinburne, the main characters, are on another adventure. In what is originally thought to be a diamond heist, several black "singing" diamonds are stolen from a jeweller. Burton and Swinburne become involved in the investigation, only to realize that what is happening goes much deeper than a simple diamond theft.
Simultaneously, a man appears claiming to be the long-lost heir to the estate of a wealthy aristocratic family, the Titchbornes. However, there is something very strange about this man and his credentials. After close investigation, Burton discovers that someone is trying to change the course of history in order to destroy the British Empire. Burton is employed by the Prime Minister to discover who is trying to cause the downfall of Britain, and what it has to do with the diamonds and the long-lost heir to the Titchborne estate.
This novel’s downfall is trying to do too much in one story. The plot is overburdened with plans, gimmicks, conspiracies, and surprise twists. Near the end it reaches the point where nothing will surprise the reader. Hodder also often awkwardly tells details that could be shown, and summarises or skips over parts of the story in a quite disjointed way. There are also some instances in which the description runs a little long. In addition, the use of a Victorian-style advertisement at the beginning of each chapter, while interesting, is also distracting to the story, as they do not always link to the plot in the clearest manner.
The concepts put forth in the novel: new ways to travel, mesmerism, astral projection, etc. are interesting, if crowded. Also, for the most part, the characters are interesting and relatable. However, if the reader has not also read the first book, some elements of character interaction will be less easily understood.
All in all, while The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man is entertaining, the plot is much too full to make it a satisfying read. It leaves the reader feeling as though the author wanted to cram as many steampunk clichés as possible into his work. However, as a light entertaining read, this novel could satisfy.