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The Affinity Bridge by George Mann
Review by Mel Jacob
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765323200
Date: 07 July 2009 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: John Berlyne's July 2008 Review / Show Official Info /

George Mann begins a new series of mysteries featuring Sir Maurice Newbury and his assistant Veronica Hobbs. Set in 1901 London, the novel Affinity Bridge, a steampunk novel, also has paranormal elements. Steam powers ground trains that run on roads, airships to fill the skies, and medical devices. The novel depicts Queen Victoria in a wheelchair on a life support system, but still in control of the Empire.

Newbury works at the British Museum, but has avid interest in the occult and in technology. Initially, Scotland Yard seeks his assistance in solving a series of Whitechapel murders witnesses claim are done by a glowing policeman. They resemble murders committed ten years ago when a gang killed a constable. Rumors persists that a ghostly constable murdered them. The current victims are poor and robbery isn't the motive for the strangulations.

Newbury acts as a special agent for Her Majesty, Victoria. She orders him to investigate the death of a royal cousin in an airship crash which burned and killed all passengers. When Newbury and Hobbs do so, they discover the pilot is missing and the victims have been tied to their seats leaving them no opportunity to escape.

Veronica strives to make her way in a man's world, but also distrusts technology. Her parents have committed her younger sister, Amelia, who suffers visions foretelling the future, to an asylum. These visions are unpredictable, ambiguous, and difficult to decipher. Amelia seldom remembers them and they leave her ill and weakened.

Veronica's cool head serves Newbury well, and her instincts prove sound. He uses her astute observations, but is also attracted to her. She helps him recover from an overdose of laudanum and bandages his many wounds.

As Newbury gathers clues, he and Veronica place their lives in jeopardy. Revenants created by a plague from India attack and almost kill Newbury. They also attack the cab carrying Veronica. She fears the bites he suffers will turn him into one, but he reassures her. He requires the assistance of unusual medical methods.

Scenes of attacks move at a hectic pace. After he suffers grievous injuries, the stamina and physical abilities of Newbury strain creditability. Revenants and other elements echo classic horror literature. Newbury's addiction to laudanum resembles Sherlock Holmes' to heroin.

Mann plays fair with readers and provides plenty of clues to the villains of the piece. A fast and furious climax carries the reader through the solution to the mystery, but appears somewhat over-choreographed. The end provides plenty of aspects for the further adventures of Newbury and Hobbs. Many readers will welcome the next mystery.

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