I first read some of Mann's work with his 'Newbury and Hobbes' steampunk series beginning with 'The Affinity Bridge'. They were a pretty enjoyable romp through a Britain where Queen Victoria had been mechanised and, very underused, revenants stalked the streets. After this I read his 'Ghost' pulp hero books and his War Doctor novel, the former was a big silly romp and the latter an entertaining Doctor Who tale that never really captured the spirit of the John Hurt character.
I guess what I'm saying here is that while I've enjoyed most everything of his I've read there's usually been some niggly little thing that's, certainly not spoilt, but bugged me about them; these books are no different.
buy it here) is the story of Elspeth Reeves a journalist returning to the small town she grew up in following the break down of both her relationship and her career in that there London. Immediately on arrival she is drawn into a murder case being investigated by her childhood friend, Peter Shaw.
The murder, it transpires, is part of a series with an overtly magical purpose based on a local myth and it's around the magic that the story stumbles. What we get is a story that seems stuck between two places; neither crime nor fantasy. I like that for the protagonists that magic is hidden, alien, unlikely, absurd even yet for the perpetrator it's ridiculously easy yet that he seems to only use it against women is a niggling annoyance that wasn't addressed and I really do think should have been.
buy it here) continues where the previous left off with Elspeth now more settled and ensconced in a relationship with Peter. Like the first book here we have an odd mix of cop and horror tropes as an archaeological dig exhumes the remains of legendary local witch Agnes Levett coincides with a spate of murders in a small village.
Also, as with the previous volume, it's all a little frothy. What you get in these books is a sort of daytime TV cop show version of a horror story, 'The Midsummer Horrors' or 'Rosemary's Baby and Thyme' perhaps. The stories are lively but there's not much here to chew on and the magic / horror elements feel a little bit tacked on which is a shame.
Now, you may have noticed that I try and avoid writing negative reviews here on Wyrd Britain and I don't really want you to think that this is one. As I said I generally quite like Mann's writing, he's springy and readable with a love of the pulps - here as much as ever - but this particular series, despite being on the surface right up my particular street is proving to be a bit of a cul de sac and personally I think I'm done but I also think that there's a lot going on here that many of you guys with a fondness for folk horror will dig.
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