The Ripper Affair (Bannon & Clare book 3) by Lilith Saintcrow (book review).

‘The Ripper Affair’ by Lilith Saintcrow is the third visit to Londinium, the London of an alternate Victorian Age where steam technology and magic co-exist. We start directly in medias res with Clare testifying in court in a case concerning a member of an Eirean brotherhood (this world’s version of Irish terrorists). Clare’s friend and bodyguard Valentinelli loses his life while saving his ward from an exploding bomb in the courtroom. This sacrifice has dire consequences as it awakes feelings in Archibald Clare, something which the mentath cannot really cope with.


Clare discovers something else, he is ill equipped to deal with: The immortality Bannon forced upon him without his knowledge during the events of ‘The Red Plague Affair’. The self-sacrifice of his friend thus being in vain puts considerable strain on his relationship with Emma Bannon. Meanwhile, the Sorceress Prime has some other things to occupy her mind, especially the still tenuous working relationship with her sovereign. Bannon will not forget the cover-up of the government’s involvement in spreading the plague by the ruling spirit. Then the unthinkable happens and the Queen herself visits the lodgings of Bannon to ask once again for her help.

Britannia is drained of power. This seems to be connected to a series of gruesome murders of prostitutes in Whitechapel. Bannon takes up the challenge, mainly because Clare expects it from her but also because she herself could have been one of the unlucky Whitechapel women, had circumstances been just slightly different. It becomes more and more apparent that the events have some connection to Emma’s past. Detective Inspector Aberline has to deal with a faceless killer using magic and therefore grudgingly accepts Bannon’s help. Will the three of them be able to unravel the mystery in time?

‘The Ripper Affair’ elaborates further on the dark points in Bannon’s history. It also gives Clare some more insight into the nature of feelings and even furthers the struggle between the illogic of magic and the logic of the mentaths. Both lead characters are developed further and, once again, the novel is told from both their viewpoints. It might slightly disappoint fans of the series that some of the plot threads from books one and two remain hanging and are not mentioned again. Almost none of the support cast from the earlier books make an appearance here, apart from Bannon’s servants.

The intriguing setting and the fact that Lilith Saintcrow takes her time to develop the characters, including the minor ones, are undoubtedly points in favor of ‘The Ripper Affair’. The novel is in fact much more about the emotional development of its characters than it is about solving a mystery. No wonder that the mystery maybe not quite satisfying as such. Read as a character study, ‘The Ripper Affair’ works its charms. Unfortunately, it seems the publisher decided not to continue the series and ‘The Ripper Affair’ is a good sequel but it leaves too many open threads to end a series satisfactorily. Let us hope that Bannon and Clare find a new home somewhere else and can continue their adventures. If you are interested in steampunk with a touch of fantasy, you should definitely read this trilogy.

Sven Scheurer

April 2016

(pub: Orbit. 386 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-356-50094-2)
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