Automatic Women is a Steampunk novel set in London in 1888. Jacob Fellows is a thief catcher and works for The Bow Street Firm, which I believe is the author’s take on the original Bow Street runners, the first professional policemen of London.
Known as “Jolly” Fellows, he is called to a theft as a penny theatre by Dr Saxon. Saxon has a set of automated dancing dolls who perform to the music of Swan Lake, but his leading lady, The Swan Princess, has been stolen. Jolly knows little about automated figures and leans on his informers for a name where he can go to begin his enquiries. Jolly meets eccentric Frenchman Jacques Nouveau, who himself owns several life-like automatons. He knows of Saxon and admires the magical qualities of his figures, especially The Swan Princess.
Returning to Saxon’s theatre, Jolly finds Saxon being crushed to death by the Swan Princess, a graveyard of other automated figures and then he is attacked and must fight to save his own life. He is now the number one suspect in a murder case, is forbidden to return to his workplace and has fourteen days to prove himself innocent. The one piece of evidence which might save him is locked in storage back at The Firm.
An intriguing plot follows as someone wants Jolly dead and he becomes a pawn in the long standing game between too theorist rivals of the time. There were some great characters; Conan Doyle, Darwin and Bramstoker mixed with historical components of the era. For me the ending left more questions than answers and the copy I read had a good dozen minor editing errors which just needed tweaking.
This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by the author via Curiosity Quills.
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