Victorian England is in turmoil. Revenants, undead creatures, prowl the night and spread their sickness to unsuspecting citizens. Also, a supposed ghost of a murdered police man has been strangling passersby in White Chapel. Many have died so far and there are no witnesses or leads. Sir Maurice Newbury, agent of the Queen and anthropologist for the British Museum, is in the middle of investigating that series of murders when the Crown requested that he investigate a mysterious and tragic accident. An aircraft piloted by an automaton crashed in Finsbury Park and killed everyone inside of it. He and his intrepid assistant, Veronica Hobbes, are on the case and investigate. It starts off as a conventional investigation until multiple attempts on their lives are made. Can Maurice and Veronica figure out the two mysteries before more people die or they are killed?
The Affinity Bridge is steeped in an alternative history version of Victorian England. There are flying airships in the air, clockwork automatons as servants and pilots, revenant zombies in the streets, and even a crude life support system to keep Queen Victoria alive. The book opens with a horrific zombie scene in India and then the story goes to England, where much of the investigation is simply in Victorian society. At points, I was lulled into the sense that I was reading a normal Victorian mystery novel and then I would be jarred when clockwork men or zombies attacked. I haven’t read a book quite like this one and I enjoyed that the supernatural aspects weren’t all encompassing. Even though the technology in this book is more advanced than the actual era, poverty, hunger, and their infamous mistreatment of mental illness unfortunately still exist. These stark realities gave the book a believability I don’t think it would have had if they were absent.
The main characters in this book are flawed and dynamic, with their own sets of insecurities and sordid secrets. Maurice Newbury is a brilliant detective and anthropologist with an addiction to opium. He is slightly Holmes-like, but much more eager to physically fight. I felt they portrayed his physical strength and stamina a bit overexaggerated. His past is rather murky, but the small allusions to it left me wondering. I always like a story to feel that there is more to it than the book can contain. Veronica Hobbes is my favorite character. She is a strong, confident woman with a no-nonsense attitude. She’s very sensible and seems rather cold, but her close relationship with her sister proves otherwise. I really feel Veronica wasn’t utilized to her fullest ability and I hope the next book will improve.
The rest of the characters are largely one dimensional and more like stock characters, even the villains. They didn’t have facets to them like the main characters did. Victorian society also isn’t portrayed very realistically. The close friendship between Veronica and Maurice would have been largely disapproved of and would have had serious consequences for Veronica.
Overall, I enjoyed The Affinity Bridge despite the lacking minor characters and depiction of Victorian society. I would recommend it to fans of Gail Carriger’s Alexia Tarabotti series.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins