It’s clear Mann likes Sherlock Holmes, and has imitated Conan Doyle’s work – with certain deliberate differences. Watson is now a pretty and intelligent woman (except she didn’t seem very intelligent to me, no matter how many times Sherlock told her she was), the supernatural usually is the explanation, and that observant-detection thing comes up exactly once (when his boss shows up at 4 in the morning, he deduces based on his outfit that there’s been another murder. . . when actually, his boss showing up at 4am makes that fact perfectly obvious).
Sherlock is a detective with an opium habit and a passion for the occult (but only the real occult – his first scene shows him mocking a fake spiritualist). Watson is exactly the standard 'common-sense woman who makes people gasp as she dares to investigate crime scenes, etc' that is rare for the historical setting, but extremely common in the fictional one.
The plot is about a suspicious airship crash (while London is also having issues with a mysterious “glowing policeman” who kills people, and a zombie plague). Sidebar: What is it with steampunk and zombies?
Fundamentally, this book is adequate. It has plenty of cool factor and gentlemanly behaviour, and the writing could be a lot worse, but I was soon looking forward to finishing it. Someone who had never read steampunk before would probably be delighted with it. There’s far too much discussion of the case (needs less talky-talky, more "Aieee! Zombies!") although the action does increase somewhat towards the end.
Rating: PG for some gory zombie moments.
Sample: (When I opened to a random page I realised it was highly representative of the low-quality writing):
Newbury was astounded: “Bravo. Bravo, indeed!” He glanced from Villiers to Chapman and back again. “This is indeed a revolutionary invention. What else can it do?” He was clearly enthused.