The Osiris Ritual, by George Mann. Tor, 2010. 319 pp. 978-0-7653-2323-1.
... in which Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes, investigators for Queen Victoria, solve a series of murders connected to the recent discovery of an ancient mummy.
Following The Affinity Bridge, this book is the second book in the Newbury and Hobbes Investigations series, featuring supernatural and occult mysteries in a steampunk setting. In this installment, after dealing with the revenant (ie, zombie) outbreak from the previous book, Sir Maurice Newbury and his assistant Veronica Hobbes are investigating two separate mysteries. Newbury attends the opening of an Egyptian sarcophagus, but later people connected to the mummy begin to be murdered, possibly by a man who is part undead human and part machine. Meanwhile, Hobbes is investigating the disappearances of several young women, all of whom were last seen attending a traveling magician's show.
I really enjoyed The Affinity Bridge, this book's predecessor. Had this blog been in existence when I read that book, I would have probably given it 5 stars. What I enjoyed most about it was the steampunk setting and the interesting direction the characters could take in future novels. I was somewhat disappointed that the steampunk setting was less immediately obvious in this book. While the first book's steampunk aspects were ever-present, the steampunk aspects of this book were separate and discrete (but not discreet... sorry, personal pet peeve). Since I really enjoy steampunk, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of it in this book.
Having said that, it's a nice straightforward story. The action proceeds at a nice pace, and the pieces of the two separate mysteries fall together nicely. George Mann's writing style is very readable, so it's an enjoyable quick read. At no point did I feel like the plot was dragging, nor did I feel like I was being hurried along without all of the necessary information. It helps that neither of the mysteries were particularly complex... both were pretty straightforward, and with barely 300 pages, there isn't enough room for a lot of twists and turns.
The characters were something of a let-down for me. Veronica Hobbes came off as being a pretty flat character, perhaps because she got less page-time than Newbury did. It was hard to connect to her, because she mostly seemed like a career-driven woman whose sole concern outside of work was her ill sister. Maurice Newbury was somewhat easier to relate to, partly because he had the bigger plot and far more pages devoted to his POV, but there wasn't much in the way of character growth beyond what was established in the first book. Some of the secondary characters were really interesting, but most of them had only very brief appearances. One of them, the chief investigator for Scotland Yard, is a really compelling character, and it's encouraging that he is a recurring character, even if his appearances are not very long.
To summarize, I enjoyed reading the book because of its quick plot and good writing, but I was somewhat let down because I had high expectations after reading the first book. The third book in the Newbury & Hobbes Investigations series is being released next week, and I will most likely read it, because the series still holds some promise for me, and the end of The Osiris Ritual hinted at some interesting developments in the future. I give this book 4 stars for the plot, which was solid but nothing extraordinary, and 2 stars for characters, for an overall rating of 3/5 stars.