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Book Review

Book Cover

The Executioner's Heart


Author: George Mann
Publisher: Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $12.99
ISBN: 978 1 78116 005 3
Publication Date: 12 July 2013

When a series of grisly murders hit Victoria London, the Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, Charles Bainbridge, turns towards the two people who may have the skills to reveal the identity of a killer who removes their victim’s hearts. Sir Maurice Newbury and his assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbs, are also engaged in unusual activities trying to save the life of Veronica’s sister. As the continent moves ever closer to war the mad cyborg queen feels the grip of her power loosening...

The Executioners Heart (308 pages) is another in the series of cyberpunk fantasies, written by George Mann.

The series has so far been enjoyable, even if its influences mean that some of the ideas feel a little derivative. Think Sherlock Holmes and the set up and characters feel over familiar. In the current romp, victims are found with their hearts removed and Newbury has to work out if there are any occult aspects to the case.

Things are not straight forward for the case. For a start Newbury is on the hit list of a particularly nasty occult cabal, who wants the book he stole back. However, Newbury has no intention of doing this as he is using it to keep Veronica’s sister alive.

The action is played against a background of a very different Britain, where hearts and whole support systems can be replaced. Easily the most interesting character in the book is Queen Victoria. Bound to a chair, the queen is kept artificially alive, which also grants her longevity.

Her life, being overlong, and her power immense, the Queen has become introverted and paranoid about all who surround her, leading her to increasingly ruthless behaviour. The character is a strong enough grotesque to carry her own book and within the playing field of a radically changed history, this could be a fun read.

Mann interweaves the case of the executioner well as he introduces her backstory throughout the novel. Unfortunately, both the motive for the killings and its instigator are obvious fairly early on in the story. Still, the writing style is uncomplicated, with well-choreographed fights and gruesome descriptions of the murder scenes. The flow is so natural that I finished the book in about four hours.

Steampunk fans may be a little disappointed, this is quite a closed-in story, apart for some references to clockwork mechanisms, we don’t really get a chance to stand back and see more of the world, hinted at. So, it’s not a bad book, being eminently readable, but his influences are overly transparent. Now if only we could get a book about the mad mechanical queen.


Charles Packer

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