Sebastian de Ulloa is a vampire. He's lived for somewhere over a thousand years. He's left Europe, weary of the games the "blood" play to relieve the boredom of eternity. And oh yeah--Sebastian is an independent consultant when it comes to catching murderers. And he's very good at it.
Lady Abigail Irene Garrett is a forensic sorceress working for the Crown. She's utterly loyal to the King, and like all loyal principled people, is due for a shock when that loyalty is misused by the King's lieutenants. She lives in a world where magic is real and Britain never gave New Amsterdam back. Ever.
Plus, there's dirigibles. *drools with love*
Seriously, I loved this book. Each mystery is a novella in and of itself, which might be confusing to the average reader since the players are reintroduced each time. The midstream changes in point-of-view might also confuse an average reader, but they are handled very well and clearly. Bear handles the question of a very old vampire's psychology very well, by making Sebastian polyamorous by necessity and detached-as-possible by default. He's a necessary foil for the bluestocking Garrett, who manages to avoid social leprosy by being rich and very good at her job, not to mention uncaring about scandal. She's saved from Mary Sueness by having very definite vulnerabilities and a softer side.
The mysteries are well-plotted and create plenty of urgency. They're also devilishly clever, and it's obvious Bear has done her homework on magickal theory and folklore (she even mentions the beast of Gevaudan,) as well as forensic anthropology. And the writing is very good, very smooth, and very well done. I wanted to go back to the book each time I was pulled away to attend to that little thing called "life."
I can find very few cons in this review. There were a couple of homonyms the editor didn't catch (in particular, the ever-popular "hair-brained") and a few anachronisms, but if one has already accepted an alternate historical timeline verbal anachronisms present very little of a problem. All in all, a marvelous and highly-recommended read from a very talented author.
And there's dirigibles! Which just about make any story better. Heh.