Title: The Osiris Ritual: A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation
Author: George Mann
Format: Hardback, Tor
I am a fan of many things. Book series, recurring characters, occult tales, stories of mystery and investigation, and strong leading characters with twists and turns along the way are top of my ‘What I look for in books’ list. George Mann’s The Osiris Ritual delivers on much of that checklist, but falls short as a tightly woven story unravels into predictability.
The Osiris Ritual is set in a steampunkish world of monarchy and monstrosity, the line between the two somewhat blurred by the fact that Queen Victoria is being kept alive due to various gadgets and gizmos. Sir Maurice Newbury serves as a special agent to the Queen, investigating strange and unusual crimes that may threaten England and the Crown. Assisting him, although she is not supposed to be aware of his status with the Queen, is Veronica Hobbes, an able bodied, charming woman who challenges Newbury in more ways than one.
The second volume in this series centers around the excavation and discovery of an Egyptian mummy, allegedly that of a priest who potentially had found the secret of immortality and was essentially buried alive for it. Newbury attends the public debut of the archaeological wonder, only to get involved in murder, a murder it appears the Mummy itself may have committed.
With this, the adventure is off and running with Newbury, assisted by Miss Hobbes, begins investigating whether or not the mummy has returned to life or if there is in fact something more sinister, more technological but just as diabolical at work. As the two dig deeper into the intrigue around them, Newbury learns all is not what it appears to be, not concerning the killer he now hunts or the woman he trusts to assist him and even with his life.
The Osiris Ritual most assuredly starts off on a fantastic foot, presenting mysteries of all sorts in layers. Newbury and Hobbes make a wonderful pair, complementing each other well and still standing on their own as individuals. The supporting cast provides strong pillars as well, from the Queen in all her morbid steampunkish glory to the young reporter thrust into the middle of the investigation by his own ambition. Mann is in top form for the first half of this book, building plot and character rapidly and engaging the reader well.
Then, unfortunately, the bottom falls out near the third quarter of the book and Mann never manages to regain the momentum that he established early on. Newbury becomes entangled in what turns out to be a useless endeavor of self analysis and each and every reveal that is made is telegraphed and totally without tension. Even the final confrontation between the killer and the heroes is mired down in having been done before and resolved leaving more questions than answers. The questions, however, aren’t really hard to answer or interesting enough to make the book better.
The Osiris Ritual: A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation is three out of five pages. This was a hard call for me, but what read as a four or even five pager for over half the book simply collapses under the weight of cliché in the last act. I will seek out the other books in the series, the characters did appeal that much, but it’s really a one time read on its own.
As for my own scale, this one rates three out of six bullets. I hope is that this one just suffers from ‘second book issues’ and recovers well in the third. The characters are dazzling and dark, but even they can’t hold back the deluge of predictable tropes that eventually pulls this book under.