The fourth Newbury & Hobbes steampunk mystery pits the detectives against the most frightening villainess England has yet seen
It’s normal for Inspector Bainbridge to be called to the scene of a crime, but this is the third murder in quick succession, each with the victim’s chest cracked open and their heart torn out. Bainbridge suspects there’s a symbolic reason for the stolen hearts, so he sends for special agent Sir Maurice Newbury and his determined assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes.
Unfortunately, neither of them are in much shape to take the case. Veronica is busy trying to find some way to alleviate the mysterious forces hounding her family. Newbury's been retained by a private client: Edward, Prince of Wales, who's concerned that his mother is losing her grip on the nation.
Eventually, though, it is determined that someone has hired a mercenary known as the Executioner to kill current and former agents of the Queen. The Executioner — French, beautiful, and covered in tattoos, her flesh inlaid with precious metals — is famed throughout Europe, with legends going back for years. Something is keeping her in a form of living stasis, but her heart is damaged, leaving her an emotionless shell, inexplicably driven to collect her victims’ hearts as trophies.
Why is Veronica acting the way she is? Why has she stopped trusting Bainbridge? What does the Prince of Wales really want? These are just some of the mysteries that Newbury and Hobbes will confront on the way to unearthing the secret of the Executioner’s Heart.
George Mann was born 1978. He has been reading science fiction since he first managed to lay his hands on a copy of The War of the Worlds on his 11th birthday.
George Mann is the former editor of Outland magazine. He writes an SF column for the internet and is the author of The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.