Blogger news

The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes

The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes by George Mann, Newbury and Hobbes

A collection of short stories detailing the supernatural steampunk adventures of detective duo, Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes in dark and dangerous Victorian London. Along with Chief Inspector Bainbridge, Newbury & Hobbes will face plague revenants, murderous peers, mechanical beasts, tentacled leviathans, reanimated pygmies, and an encounter with Sherlock Holmes.

The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes is a short story collection of 15 stories set in the Steampunk Victorian inspired world of the enigmatic detective duo Maurice Newbury and Veronica Hobbes. The Newbury and Hobbes universe shares the same day and age as Sherlock Holmes. I haven't read the full books of Newbury and Hobbes yet, so my first venture into this universe will be with this short story collection. George Mann, the clever mind behind these investigative stories, has already produced four full length books featuring Newbury and Hobbes with a fifth one in the planning for 2014 as well as written stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, stories of Warhammer, Doctor Who and his Ghost series.

Since this is a short story review, I think if I would discuss each story here it would turn into a multiple page post so instead I will be highlighting several short stories that really caught my attention. It was a tough decision since they are all great stories, because every individual story was a pleasure to read on it own. 

What really makes The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes great is the fact that even though every story is self contained, George Mann does introduce a story thread in several of the stories which connects events on a larger scale. This connecting of the stories was done in a clever way that gave a whole new dimension to just a few short stories. I really liked this. The stories do follow each other up in a chronological sense, but when you read a a story that took place in 1902, with several characters and you see those names or description being dropped in a few stories and years later I got that "I knew it couldn't be over just yet" feeling. George Mann proves that he can turn short story reading into a whole different experience. 

Onto the stories now. 

In a short story collection you really have to set the mood straight with the first story. The first story is called The Dark Path and is just 30 pages long. In The Dark Path you follow Newbury in a supernatural investigation, from the first moments I started reading this story it produced a thrilling and dark sense about it all, throwing you as a reader into a missing persons case. In of course a dark forest. From the back of book I could make out that Newbury and Hobbes is about a bit of the supernatural, and this is wholly proven in the end of this story. As Newbury finds out who or should I say what is behind these disappearances. When I found out how this story had unfolded, with quite a horror tinge to it together with the fact of casualness of how Newbury is continuing the day, had really set the mood for me and I knew that I would be in for a treat for the remainder of the book.

As for a second story I would like to mention The Shattered Teacup. This story is in essence similarly as the other stories, producing a investigation for Newbury and/or Hobbes, but The Shattered Teacup gives on a first take a straight forward investigation, but upon later reflection proves to be much more. And on top of this, The Shattered Teacup is the first Christmas story in the book. In this short story you follow Newbury and his friend Sir Charles Bainbridge with investigation a murder on Christmas Eve. With only a few clues left behind Newbury is in for a daunting task in catching the murderer and goes about asking smart questions to the staff, but with several clues hinting towards one direction this soon proves to be wrong, and luckily Newbury's quick wit helps him solve the case in the end. However behind this story and investigation, George Mann does explore and show the motives of the murderer out acceptance and jealousy. 

For the third one I want to nominate What Lies Beneath. Just a note in between, so far each story has had it's own unique introduction, it isn't just a murder being committed and that it is for Newbury and Hobbes to find out who has done it, more on the contrary, George Mann create new introduction each time, from retelling stories of the past, to current investigation, from other perspective and in What Lies Beneath using several letters. And this time around you follow Veronica Hobbes. Those introductory letters were great starting material, they show the mind of a psychopath but you don't know what it exactly is about, you only learn that he is mad and that Newbury is involved. Only later you learn, when Veronica Hobbes, is giving the summary of what actually transpired what was told in the letters that everything falls into place. And also proves that Newbury isn't as bullet proof as he might think he is, but he is clever I got to give him that! I found this story had one of the greatest idea's behind it in terms of introduction. 

As a fourth I would like to name the story with the thread, The Lady Killer. Like I mentioned above George Mann links several short stories together by one protagonist that is introduced in The Lady Killer. In this short story, Newbury wakes up in a ground train, he was tasked with finding a spy, Lady Arkwell, who is an enemy of the Crown. But Newbury's recollection of the events that led up to loosing consciousness are lost to him. He is clueless and only has two other persons besides him for help one alive, one dead. Newbury does start to remember several hints about Lady Arkwell. However Newbury's first task is to get out of the ground train, even with his perils, Newbury does try to remain one step ahead of the his enemy. But just as soon as you read Newbury leaving the train, there is that notable walk... and then it was there Ha! It seems that even Newbury can be bested! And I knew that we would see Lady Arkwell more often. In the later stories, when you see the descriptions of actions of Lady Arkwell, I immediately got stoked, because could it just be that it could turn in a showdown of two master minds? Newbury and Lady Arkwell does have a specific chemistry working between them and I do hope to see it in possible future short stories of a whole book even. 

OK so I am already at four stories and there is still so much to tell, but I will just get to this last story. The Case of the Night Crawler. This short story is a tie-in with Watson and Holmes and is being told from the perspectives of Dr. John Watson. What happens in The Case of the Night Crawler caused the first encounter between Newbury and Hobbes. A strange beast is hunting the waters of the Thames and it seems that Holmes isn't interested in the case and Watson sets out to seek help of Newbury and Hobbes and in doing this, Watson is secretly hoping to show how good he is to Holmes. With the promise of a leviathan in the Thames I thought this would go to the lines of the first short story with the supernatural, but instead George Mann introduces a bit of steampunk alternative in here, in a more than cool way! But on the whole there are many other elements like the rivalry between Newbury and Holmes and even though Holmes is not in the picture himself that much he does show that he is at his uncanny best in the end of the story. Man I really liked how George Mann captured Holmes "cockiness" in just those few actions. 

These are just a few glimpses of the great stories that await you in The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes. All the stories have been cleverly written and none feel like a revisiting of earlier events in the other stories. I really have to give it to George Mann that he manages to create 15 unique and diverse stories. These aren't the "murder committed - solved" kind of stories but many other aspects are being explored as well. From the mechanical with steampunk, the occult and myths with the supernatural down to deep questioned murder investigations this book has it all. And to top it all off, George Mann also shows an intervention with Watson and Holmes! The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes is one cleverly written book with an rich set of stories for fans of Newbury and Holmes alike. Each story is readable as individually but with connecting some stories on a greater whole George Mann turns reading short stories into a whole new experience!