Top positive review
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Fleshes out the series wonderfully
on 6 January 2014
Over the course of four novels, Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes have combatted foes both technological and occult, serving as agents of the crown to protect and foster the interests of her majesty, Queen Victoria. They're not alone in their endeavors, at times enlisting the help of, at other times being seconded to, Sir Charles Bainbridge, chief inspector of Scotland Yard. However, everyone has an origin story, and The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes is Mann's way of fleshing out the history of Newbury and Hobbes during the periods not chronicled by the novels. It also reveals a ghost of the past in the person of Templeton Black, Newbury's former assistant, and introduces the future in Peter Rutherford, a member of the British Secret Service who will go on to create his own legacy.
According to the author's notes, each of these stories can be found in other venues, but this is the first time they've been compiled into a Newbury and Hobbes collection. Overall, it's an excellent addition to Mann's Steampunk universe, filling in some of the details of Newbury's past and looking forward to the future of his "Ghost" series of roaring twenties novels set in a Steampunk New York. Stand out stories include his Sherlock homage, The Case of the Night Crawler and his tribute to H.P. Lovecraft, Strangers from the Sea. My personal favourite is The Shattered Teacup, which brings to mind the best of both Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. It's a fun murder mystery with obvious steampunk influence in the clockwork owl that proves essential to solving the case. The only story that falls flat (for me, at least) is What Lies Beneath, but honestly, that owes more to my distaste for epistolary writing than anything Mann did with the story.
The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes is a seamless blend of Victorian detective story sprinkled with Steampunk elements and a dash of the occult. Mann captures the flavour of Victorian mystery fiction usually identified with Arthur Conan Doyle and manages to put a steampunk flourish to it. It's a great addition to the universe established in the Newbury and Hobbes mysteries, fleshing out the series for those fans that want to see a bit more. However, if you haven't faithfully followed the series from the outset, it may not be the book for you. Simple solution for those who are unfamiliar--get yourselves to a bookstore and catch up on the series before delving into this wonderful backstory of Newbury and Hobbes, occult detectives.