I have reviewed a number of George Mann’s books on this site before, his Steampunk novels featuring the daring duo of Newbury & Hobbes are excellent and often I had commented on how Newbury was indubitably in the Sherlock Holmes mould. Together the pair investigate occult goings on in the automata filled, revenant plagued streets of Victorian London. They are ably assisted by Sir Charles Bainbridge (Newbury’s Lestrade if you like).
In this book – The Will of the Dead – Holmes is engaged to investigate a seemingly accidental death, a missing will and ghastly goings on within the estate of the deceased which results in more deaths and an unexpected claim on the deceased man’s fortune itself.
Meanwhile, and introducing a soft Steampunk angle, Iron Men are terrorising London’s well-to-do with a series of audacious break-ins and brazen burglaries. These metal monsters are thought to be close to killing someone as their emotionless targeting of society seems remorseless and all about the profit.
At the heart of both cases is a young Charles Bainbridge. Newly promoted to Inspector and seen as a rising star within Scotland Yard by all bar his chief, Bainbridge is told to focus all on his Iron Men case and leave well alone with regards to the will of dead.
Of course, with Holmes around it is not that simple. He discovers a underhand plot, absolutely convinced that the death is anything but accidental, and embarks on the kind of snooping only he can.
Mann is a great writer. He clearly understands the Conan Doyle characters really well and uses all of the tricks of the original stories to bring Holmes and Watson to life, whilst at the same time introducing some back story to Bainbridge for fans of the Newbury & Hobbes series.
The Will of the Dead is a worthy attempt at an original Sherlock Holmes story. The light crossover to Steampunk makes for interesting ready, especially as Holmes’s reticence to get involved could be borne out of a lack of knowledge on his part. Or is it?