On the surface, life is going well for Victorian special agent Sir Maurice Newbury, who has brilliantly solved several nigh-impossible cases for Queen Victoria with his indomitable assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, by his side. But these facts haven’t stopped Newbury from succumbing increasingly frequently to his dire flirtation with the lure of opium. His addiction is fueled in part by his ill-gotten knowledge of Veronica’s secret relationship with the queen, which Newbury fears must be some kind of betrayal. Veronica, consumed by worry and care for her prophetic but physically fragile sister Amelia, has no idea that she is a catalyst for Newbury’s steadily worsening condition. Veronica and Newbury’s dear friend Bainbridge, the Chief Investigator at Scotland Yard, tries to cover for him as much as possible, but when the body of a well known criminal turns up, Bainbridge and Veronica track Newbury down in an opium den and drag him out to help them with the case. The body is clearly, irrefutably, that of the man in question, but shortly after his body is brought to the morgue, a crime is discovered that bears all the dead man’s hallmarks. Bainbridge and Veronica fear someone is committing copycat crimes, but Newbury is not sure. Somehow, the details are too perfect for it to be the work of a copycat. But how can a dead man commit a crime?
This is the third of Mann's Newbury and Hobbes books and, judging by the way it ends, not the last.
Newbury's drug use has escalated over the time between books and it opens with him an opium addled mess. The erstwhile Miss Veronica Hobbes and Chief Inspector Bainbridge find him and set him back on track in order to help them with a puzzling new case. Someone has been leaving dead duplicates around the place. These investigations soon begin to incorporate both the shady Bastion Society and also the very refuge where Veronica's sister is being treated for her visions.
As the investigation proceeds events start to tumble over each other and intertwine in a not altogether satisfying way. The characters seem at odds with their own personalities and often behave like cliches. Newbury's addictions, in full swing at the opening, are managed with almost ridiculous ease throughout the rest of the book and Veronica has become almost superheroic.
This volume was lacking the spark that made the other books in the series so much fun. It felt more than a little overblown. Towards the end it really started to come together and I enjoyed the final ride. I could definitely go another set of these in the future though.