I finished reading THE AFFINITY BRIDGE by British science-fiction author George Mann this morning and what a rattling good read it is. It's the first of the Newbury & Hobbes Investigation series which has thus far produced three books. I haven't read the other titles, THE OSIRIS RITUAL and THE IMMORTALITY ENGINE, but rest assured they're on my list as well as any future installments in this series.
This steampunk science fiction novel is set in 1901 London. Sir Maurice Newbury of the British Museum (and a secret agent for Queen Victoria) along with his assistant Valerie Hobbes, embark on their first case and it's a doozy involving the crash of The Lady Armitage, an immense airship, in a field outside of town. There are no survivors of the crash and the pilot, an automaton (mechanical man) is missing from the wreckage. Add to this mystery a series of murders in Whitechapel allegedly the work of a mysterious and ghostly policeman with weirdly glowing blue skin and a plague among the lower class which turns victims into flesh-eating "revenants" (aka, zombies). There's a connection between all three of these disparate elements and it's up to Sir Maurice and Valerie (along with Inspector Charles Bainbridge of Scotland Yard) to solve the mystery and bring a halt to the murders.
The novel is set in an alternate universe London in which the industrial revolution proceeded at a far more rapid pace than the one in our world. Mechanical men are programmed as servants, giant airships transport goods and passengers to all corners of the British Empire and steam driven surface trains run on the streets of London along with steam powered carriages. The action takes a while to get underway but once it does, author Mann skillfully orchestrates some spectacular action set pieces including battles with revenants, automata, the blue policeman (atop a speeding train) and final, fight to the death aboard an airship.
The best way to read and enjoy this book is to picture John Steed and Emma Peel, of the British television series THE AVENGERS, as Newbury and Hobbes. That's the way I read it and that's the way I enjoyed it. Thumbs up and highly recommended.