A steampunk mystery novel! Two genres in one! It’s just like having a double-scoop ice cream cone. The flavor for steampunk would be black raspberry, and the flavor for mystery would be a mocha/dark chocolate ripple. The two together are a blissful combination, just like Rod Duncan’s steampunk mystery, The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter.
The story is set two hundred years after the founding of two new nations in the British Isles, the Kingdom in the South and the Republic in the North. Citizens travel by train, horse-drawn carriage, and airship. They communicate by letter, and especially pressing messages are delivered by carrier pigeon. Traveling laboratories showcasing the latest in machinery and illusion draw crowds wherever they go.
On to the mystery! Investigator, expatriate, and cross-dresser Elizabeth Barnabus receives a commission by letter to discover a missing aristocrat from the Southern Kingdom. The job comes in the nick of time, as she urgently requires the promised fee to pay her rent for the derelict steamship on which she lives. Elizabeth must trust to her expert disguises as she joins a traveling circus and illegally crosses borders to earn the needed gold pieces.
Elizabeth is an intelligent, resourceful, and engaging heroine whose adventures are well worth following. You may continue to follow her in the sequel, called Unseemly Science.
Other steampunk mysteries include Jedediah Berry’s The Manual of Detection and Jonathan Barnes’ The Somnambulist.
Other books that shared the 2014 nomination for the Philip K. Dick Award include Jennifer Marie Brissett’s Elysium and Cherie Priest’s Maplecroft.