Crime, Thriller, Steampunk
Following their bloody encounter with the Executioner, Sir Maurice Newbury's assistant Veronica Hobbes is close to death. Desperate to save her life, Newbury and Veronica's sister Amelia board a sleeper train bound for St. Petersburg, in the hope that Gustav Faberge might have the answer. But there are enemies on board, and Newbury and Amelia will need all their strength and cunning to survive the Revenant Express.
It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the Newbury and Hobbes series of books as well as of the author George Mann as well. I've always loved the level of mystery and surprise in the novels and with such a shocking ending at the end of The Executioners Heart, I had very high hopes the follow up novel.
Most of the novels in the series have the mystery set in London, which almost acts like a character itself during the stories thanks to Mann's amazingly descriptive writing. Here, Mann has made the brave move of not only changing the setting for the story but there is also a change in character too. Newbury is known as energetic and excitable during an investigation but here he is morose, distracted and struggling with his emotions. It was nice to see him showing a softer and more fragile side during the story and showing that he's not perfect. I felt that touch really added to the already multilayered character. It was also nice to see him working alongside Veronica's sister Amelia as well as the interplay felt familar to his relationship with Veronica but was also different too as Amelia has a different personality.
Another part of the change in character wise was seeing Hobbes working alongside Bainbridge in their own case in London. It was great to see the character striking out on her own and seeing how she doesn't have to be tied to Newbury in order to be a strong character.
Story wise, I loved the mix of the adventure that Newbury was on as well as seeing the case that Hobbes and Bainbridge were working on. In the hands of a lesser writer it might have felt disjointed but with Mann's almost lyrical style of writing, both tales move along at a brilliant pace and have some fantastic surprises in store for the reader.
Another thing I liked about the slight change in style was the simple fact that this one was less of a 'who dunnit' and more of an 'against time' action story. I was a bit worried that it would lose some of it's charm and personality going down that route but it actually didn't and suited the story brilliantly. Reading through the novel, I was absolutely gripped through the entire tale and didn't want to put it down at all.
Change in a well loved series can be a very risky thing and Mann took a lot of risks with this book and I applaud him for that. I'll be honest and say that there were a couple of moments where the twists were a little too obvious but the risks he took style and story wise worked incredibly well. Moving the action from London to various places really gave the story a strong shot in the arm so to speak and really gave it room to breath organically without feeling rushed.
All in all, this is a fantastic novel and one that fans of the series will absolutely love. If you've not read one of the Newbury and Hobbes novels before, then I would suggest reading The Executioners Heart before tackling this one otherwise you might be a little lost but this one is well worth picking up.