On the surface, life is going well for Victorian special agent Sir Maurice Newbury, who has brilliantly solved several nigh-impossible cases for Queen Victoria with his indomitable assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, by his side. But these facts haven’t stopped Newbury from succumbing increasingly frequently to his dire flirtation with the lure of opium. His addiction is fueled in part by his ill-gotten knowledge of Veronica’s secret relationship with the queen, which Newbury fears must be some kind of betrayal. Veronica, consumed by worry and care for her prophetic but physically fragile sister, Amelia, has no idea that she is a catalyst for Newbury’s steadily worsening condition.
Veronica and Newbury’s dear friend Bainbridge, the chief investigator at Scotland Yard, tries to cover for him as much as possible, but when the body of a well-known criminal turns up, Bainbridge and Veronica track Newbury down in an opium den and drag him out to help them with the case. The body clearly, irrefutably, belongs to the man in question, but shortly after his body is brought to the morgue, a crime is discovered that bears all the dead man’s hallmarks. Bainbridge and Veronica fear someone is committing copycat crimes, but Newbury is not sure. Somehow, the details are too perfect for it to be the work of a copycat. But how can a dead man commit a crime?
Book Three in the Newbury & Hobbes series.
(Please note – this book is currently unavailable in the UK, but is due to be reissued by Titan Books in early 2016. It is still available to purchase from Tor Books in the USA.)
One of the things that constantly surprises me when I’m writing is that the characters I initially intend to be subsidiary often turn out to be the most interesting ones to explore. It happens without fail. It was true of both Felix Donovan and Peter Rutherford in the Ghost novels, and it’s true of Amelia Hobbes, here.
Amelia was only ever intended to have a cameo in The Affinity Bridge, there, really, to help shine a light on Veronica, to give some context to her behaviour. Yet Amelia has grown to be something else entirely. She’s stepped out completely from her sister’s shadow, and earned her place at the table alongside the others. Here, in The Immorality Engine, is where we see the beginning of that journey, and toward the end of The Revenant Express it really comes to a head. Amelia has developed a taste for adventure, and she’s good at it. She’s very much her own woman, and she doesn’t want to lurk in the background of the stories any more.
“A rousing adventure.”