This series is growing on me. The first book I thought was merely serviceable, with a bit of a revelation at the end that made one of the characters much more interesting. Either the author has gotten better at plotting, or the tension has been amped up, or I was just in a better mood to enjoy Victoriana. I think perhaps all three, and the end result was that this was quite enjoyable. Not revelatory, but fun.
Our lead detective, Sir Newbury, is exploring his growing opium addiction, moving from laudanum onto the hard stuff. This concerns both his lovely assistant Veronica Hobbes, but also the Queen herself, and his friends at Scotland Yard, who have far too vivid memories of the last time one of Her Majesty's investigators went to the bad. It led to human experimentation and atrocity. No wonder they're keeping an eye on him!
In the meantime, two, no, three, mysteries have reared their heads. One involves the fad for mummy unwrapping parties among the fashionable - the mummy proves most unique, and the next day, appears to have led to murder. Newbury must investigate this while also tracking down a former agent who had been killed by his murderous predecessor, yet brought back to a grotesque half-life by a doctor whose work seems dodgy. Even if he is keeping the Queen alive.
At the same time, Veronica is increasingly obsessed with the disappearances of young women, and has traced those disappearances to the stage performances of a magician. All this, while worrying about her younger sister, whose trances seeing the future are becoming more frequent, and the asylum where she's confined less than hospitable.
The surrounding characters are entertaining, if not particularly deep, and the fraught relationship between Newbury and Hobbes, complicated by opium and personal loyalties, interesting.
These mysteries are each satisfyingly dealt with, and Mann is better in this book about having things have tension and real consequence. At least one character dies who I had not expected to! The chase scenes are satisfying, the answers to the mysteries interesting, and the examination of a vaguely steampunk world, where Queen Victoria is being kept alive by strange machinery, better drawn. And I'm just a sucker for a good mummy party reference.
Mann also has a knack for a good closer - it was the end of The Affinity Bridge that convinced me to continue with the series, and the end of this book was similarly tantalizing. Even more so because he seems to be getting better at putting the lives and emotions of the main characters on the line, and if this continues, the third book should be very interesting indeed. I wonder if it's out yet.