References to all three previous adventures can be found in the first two chapters, which serve as rewarding Easter eggs for returning fans and will hopefully prompt new readers to delve into the past escapades to satisfy their curiosity.
After adventures in space (Angels), Mars (Pearl) and Tibet (Shambala), the series finally returns to British soil for its latest mystery with investigative duo Professor Sedgewick and his trusty Cadwallander back in their beloved home country. The story begins in Cambridge, with a very British opening gambit about police constables, whilst the city itself is lovingly described as a garden.
Cadwallander is back as narrator after a brief substitution in the third installment, which means his unique brand of pompous and proper humour is also back. After an uncomfortable carriage ride, Cadwallander tell us, "If public decency had not prevented it, I would have attempted to rub some feeling back into my insensuate fundament." Classic Cadwallander.
This begins as a locked room mystery, a staple of the Victorian era, and perfect for this steampunk series. Sedgewick and Cadwallander find a series of victims who appear to have gouged out their own eyes after reading a mystery piece of paper. The first half of the story pursues this intriguing mystery across the country...
...but then Grant throws the reader a curveball. As the trail leads the heroes to the Lowestoft-Zeebrugge bridge, the genre shifts from murder mystery to big budget monster movie! An otherworldly tentacled monster rises from the sea; airships and men in giant iron suits fight the beast with bullets and flamethrowers; and thousands of extras flee as the seaside town crumbles around them. In short, this is the steampunk version of Pacific Rim.
My personal favourite moment is a reference to a seven year-old M C Escher, suggesting that his artwork was inspired by the unnatural proportions which he witnessed when encountering the inter-dimensional monster!
This is steampunk at its best.