The Casebook Of Newbury And Hobbes by George Mann (book review).

If you are impatiently waiting for the next novel in the continuing series of ‘Newbury And Hobbes’, then you can fill in the gap with ‘The Casebook Of Newbury And Hobbes’, a collection that explores the characters found within this particularly universe and you may also find some strange connections with George Mann’s other books.

There are several stories in the book and they cover encounters with mysterious entities and cross-overs with other popular characters such as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Author George Mann has written Holmes novels, so he can do what he likes with these characters. Part of the fun of the Mann books and these stories is spotting the influences and joining the dots with some of the published novels. It’s clear there are plenty of ideas bubbling under the surface and here he introduces Peter Rutherford, a man who works for the Crown in the mid-twentieth century. He is a character in ‘Ghosts Of Manhattan’ by Mann and the cross-over continues with Angelchrist, who has become part of the extended team of Newbury and Hobbes, who also played a part in the ‘Doctor Who’ novel, ‘Paradox Lost’. It might be a cunning way to get us to read all of his novels but this wonderful continuity seems to enrich and ennoble the fictional universe and I look forward to it expanding further. If you are at all uncertain where the additional characters appear, then check out the helpful timeline at the end of the book.

It shows a certain confidence to allow the characters to seep across the various fictional universes but as I said, ‘Why the hell not?’

The first story, ‘The Dark Path’, concentrates on Newbury’s first assistant, Templeton Black, about whose death he carries such guilt. We get to see Templeton as a fleshed-out character that had potential. This also comes up as a theme in an interesting reworking of ‘A Christmas Carol For Christmas Spirits’. What also becomes clear is that Mann is slightly obsessed with Christmas, as quite a few stories are set around this time. I can forgive him for that as the final story, ‘Old Friends’, is rather poignant, summing up the void between expectations and reality of the festive period for many people. In between, we have the Titanic, doppelgangers, obsession and the clouds of opium that follow our hero Newbury and even some intervention by Holmes and Watson.

‘The Casebook Of Newbury And Hobbes’ made me realise was that this is begging to become a period TV series with all the wonderful appurtenances of the steampunk era that could be added. I expect it doesn’t comply with the current obsession with grisly murder and medical dramas…but hang on, there are plenty of scenes set in the morgue and more than enough mystery to keep us going. Get me the head of the BBC on the phone. All we need to add is some baking!

Sue Davies

October 2013

(pub: Titan Books. 320 page paperback. Price: £12.95 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78116-742-7)

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