Lord Pembroke, Pimm to his friends, is a dissolute, alcoholic younger son of a Marquess. And to be a real embarrassment, he had a hobby as a detective, how scandalous. Despite his familial disapproval, he will keep involving himself in criminal cases where his surprisingly able mind has lead him to great success.
It’s because of that reputation that he has been approached by Mr. Value, a man of poor repute who wishes him to investigate the murder of his prostitutes – and he’s willing to use blackmail to make Pimm accede to his request.
Ellie is a journalist who is determined to be treated as such. Unwilling to go to Paris to report on the latest fashions and instead pursuing stories of greater import – and scandal. Including going undercover into one of the infamous clockwork brothels. But while there she is quickly caught up in a scheme that goes far higher than respectable gentlemen frequenting a house of ill repute.
And she notices that Lord Pembroke, famed detective, is also involving himself with some rather unsavoury characters – perfect for a journalist to investigate.
Together they try to unravel the murders, but the plot goes far higher – to the very top of British society. Along the way they find the animate dead, a machine that makes brain talk, clockwork automata and disturbing revelations about the Constantine Affliction – the new disease stalking London that turns men into women and women into men.
I do love a good steampunk world – which this book certainly has. It manages to convey a true sense of the time and the place – you can feel Victorian London in this book, which is impressive considering how different this London is from actual Victorian London. With walled and domed Whitechapel and the many myriad inventions that so characterise steampunk – clockwork automatons, alchemical lights and all the other anachronistic, fantastic inventions – it’s a very different world. It’s one of those steampunk books that has really hit the language and the attitudes and the behaviour just right to give it an authenticity and a realness.