Alex Acks, Murder on the Titania, and Other Steam-Powered Adventures, Queen of Swords, 2018.
The title says it all really: murder mysteries, adventures, steampunk. What it leaves aside is that it is a very, very entertaining read and it'll be a perfect addition to your summer reading list.
Captain Marta Ramos is clever, snarky, reckless. She's also a pirate who delights in robbing the good citizens of the Grand Duchy of Denver among others. Her second in command, Simms, is a long-suffering and competent man who has accepted that his task was to be dragged along in adventures led by Captain Ramos.
Murder on the Titania, and Other Steam-Powered Adventures includes five stories: three are murder mysteries; two are more along the lines of steampunk westerns, including train robberies. These two were my least favourites but I mainly blame the fact that westerns in all their flavours (weird, steampunk, you name it...) aren't my cup of tea.
On the other hand, I had a delightful time reading the three murder mysteries and they are entirely worth getting the collection.
Many other reviewers have already drawn the parallel with Holmes stories, and I entirely support that. Acks hasn't rewritten Holmes adventures (for which I'm very grateful because I'm tired to death of Holmes rewritings) but they have taken the atmosphere, the society and the narrative workings of a Holmes mystery to write their own stories. The answers to the mysteries probably won't surprise anyone who is an old hand at reading Holmes, but there's still something utterly delightful in reading them.
This feeling comes mainly from the two main characters, Ramos and Simms. Their duo is entertaining to the utmost, full of snark and sarcastic comments.
This is one of the great strengths of Murder on the Titania, and Other Steam-Powered Adventures: Acks' writing is light, well-paced and has fantastic timing (comical or otherwise). In short, it is brilliant for the tone they have chosen for their stories.
A minor regret is that the main characters aren't that much developed--to say nothing of the rest of the crew--but these are novellettes. I expect them to be further developed in the second volume, Wireless and Other Steam-Powered Adventures as it includes three novellas.
Murder on the Titania, and Other Steam-Powered Adventures is pastiche, and it is great pastiche because it adds original ideas and takes: the steampunk world and the uchronia (Northern America has been colonised by Europeans but it's now a scattering of independent duchies); Captain Ramos is a character who couldn't be Holmes and yet who works like he would; the fun banter between the main characters.
It'll be a perfect summer read if you are looking for well written and entertaining steampunk adventures and mysteries.
DISCLAIMER: A free copy was received from the publisher but with no obligation attached to review it on The Middle Shelf.
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I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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