George Mann brings on the steam-loaded riotous Victorian action again in this second Newbury & Hobbes Investigations, The Osiris Ritual. Following on the very solid ground of The Affinity Bridge, Mann continues to expand his alternate London with its slightly offbeat atmosphere, zany action and characters which continue to grow more and more lovable by the page. Though in some respects it does not equal its predecessor, The Osiris Ritual remains a very strong, entertaining novel all of its own, and in other respects, it surpasses The Affinity Bridge.
Death stalks London and the newspapers proclaim that a mummy’s curse has been unleashed. Sir Maurice Newbury, Gentleman Investigator for the crow, is drawn into a web of occult intrigue as he attempts to solve the murders. And he soon finds himself on the trail of a rogue agent - a man who died to be reborn as a living weapon. Newbury’s assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, has her own mystery to unravel. Girls are going missing from a magician’s theatre show. But what appears to be a straightforward investigation puts Miss Hobbes in mortal danger. Can Newbury save his assistant, solve the riddle of the mummy’s curse, capture the deadly man-machine - and stop the terrifying Osiris Ritual from reaching its infernal culmination?
The Osiris Ritual is very much in the same vein as its predecessor. In fact that’s probably the best way to describe the book: a direct continuation of The Affinity Bridge. Unlike some other series, The Newbury & Hobbes Investigations don’t appear to be evolving much from one book to the next. For the moment, that’s all for the best. The wacky, fun elements that made The Affinity Bridge very recommendable read continue to make The Osiris Ritual shine. Yet at the same time, this second book in many respects didn’t quite uphold the same standards as the first.
The book’s intrigue is what stands out to me as the most lacking aspect of the book in comparison to the first volume. Where the investigation woven trough The Affinity Bridge afforded a large enough list of suspects and plenty enough twists to distract even the most attentive of readers The Osiris Ritual’s intrigue is simplified to the point where it almost is only a string of events - tied in with some non-negligible, exciting action sequences - and with little to no actual mystery. Sure, from the very beginning it isn’t possible to tell whodunit, but when the list of suspects very quickly narrows to essentially two suspects, well.... its a fifty-fifty chance, isn’t it?
Nevertheless, The Osiris Ritual entertains and makes up for its lack of decent intrigue with an augmented attention to the characters and their increasingly touching and captivating relations. Up until now Sir Maurice Newbury had been the very typical Gentleman Investigator with only just his ‘big bad flaw’ that really didn’t affect him all that much. Now, his flaw still doesn’t factor into much, but he as his feelings for Veronica Hobbes develop - as they inevitably should - he becomes a lot more interesting character. Veronica, for her part, too becomes a character that the reader can grow to care for more. At some point through this book I came to the realization that yes, despite them being unbelievably awesome, these characters were also human and capable of very poignant human emotion.
All in all, then, not such a bad book. Despite its inferior plot on the intrigue side of things, I found The Osiris Ritual to be a much more encompassing read than its predecessor and felt that, finally, the characters had begun to grow into their own. Sure, there’s still plenty of steampunk-goodness - there is, after all, a huge ‘fun factor’ associated with these types of books - but it’s gadgetry and quirkiness that comes without the shiny, thrilling veneer under which it was presented in The Affinity Bridge. And for the most part, that’s a good thing. George Mann can bring on The Immortality Engine.
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Reading Age: 15 and up
George Mann's Website: http://georgemann.wordpress.com/
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