Maria Isabella Boyd's success as a Confederate spy has made her too famous for further espionage work, and now her employment options are slim. Exiled, widowed, and on the brink of poverty...she reluctantly goes to work for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in Chicago. Adding insult to injury, her first big assignment is commissioned by the Union Army. In short, a federally sponsored transport dirigible is being violently pursued across the Rockies and Uncle Sam isn't pleased. The Clementine is carrying a top secret load of military essentials--essentials which must be delivered to Louisville, Kentucky, without delay. Intelligence suggests that the unrelenting pursuer is a runaway slave who's been wanted by authorities on both sides of the Mason-Dixon for fifteen years. In that time, Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey has felonied his way back and forth across the continent, leaving a trail of broken banks, stolen war machines, and illegally distributed weaponry from sea to shining sea. And now it s Maria's job to go get him. He's dangerous quarry and she's a dangerous woman, but when forces conspire against them both, they take a chance and form an alliance. She joins his crew, and he uses her connections. She follows his orders. He takes her advice. And somebody, somewhere, is going to rue the day he crossed either one of them.
I couldn't score myself a copy of the dead tree version of this as it was only published as a limited edition by some US micropublisher so had to settle for the audiobook.
This is the second of the Clockwork Century books that Priest has written. The third 'Dreadnought' (I love that word) is sitting on the shelf behind me waiting it's turn to be read. The first one, 'Boneshaker' was a cracking zombie(ish), gangster(ish), steampunk romp through a sealed Seattle filled with a poisonous fog that had turned most of the inhabitants into the living dead (yay!). It was good fun.
This time out Priest eschews such crowd pleasing concepts for a good old fashioned chase.
Maria 'Belle' Boyd (retired confederate spy) is hired to chase down escaped slave and sky-pirate Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey who in turn is hot on the heels of his stolen airship.
Both principles are cracking characters brought to life beautifully by quality voice-acting from both (one for him, one for her) readers (don't forget I'm listening to an audiobook here). The story is just the right side of complex to make for a good romp and there's more than enough intrigue and shenanigans to make it a great little read / listen.