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Authors: George Mann

Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Historical, #Historical Fiction, #Mystery Fiction, #Occult Fiction, #Private Investigators, #London (England), #Government Investigators, #Immortalism, #Spy Stories, #Detective and Mystery Stories, #Women Private Investigators, #Serial Murderers, #Steampunk, #London (England) - History - 19th Century, #Steampunk Fiction, #Private Investigators - England, #Egyptologists - England, #Egyptologists, #Serial Murderers - England, #Women Private Investigators - England, #Government Investigators - England

The Osiris Ritual

BOOK: The Osiris Ritual
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The Osiris Ritual
George Mann
Macmillan (2010)
Rating:
***
Tags:
Egyptologists, Private Investigators, Serial Murderers - England, Historical Fiction, London (England), Private Investigators - England, Government Investigators, Women Private Investigators, Fiction, Science Fiction, Immortalism, Mystery Fiction, London (England) - History - 19th Century, Historical, Occult Fiction, Women Private Investigators - England, Serial Murderers, Egyptologists - England, Spy Stories, Government Investigators - England
From Publishers Weekly

A steampunk mystery that includes Ottoman automatons, ancient Egyptian artifacts, a malevolent stage magician, and a quest for immortality should prove entertaining, but unfortunately, The Osiris Ritual falls short of its promise. Set in the usual Victorian London, the story feels clichéd and mechanical. The main character is a third-rate Sherlock Holmes and Regency hero mash-up, and nothing particularly new or interesting happens. A romantic subplot is evoked but left unresolved, and the author uses the excuse of a series to avoid tying up loose ends or construct a narrative arc that delivers on the promised story. (Aug.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review


A wonderful penny-dreadful. It’s an unashamed galloping romp
through the ins and outs of the Victorian metropolis and the lurid generic conventions of adventure fiction. All the way through I felt like George Mann was having a whale of a time with this.”

—Paul Magrs, author of several Doctor Who novels and a Carnegie Medal finalist, on
The Osiris Ritual

“ Newbury and Hobbes make a charming pair, and their investigative adventures are a great deal of fun. Mann’s reimagined Victorian era is a fabulous place, and the mix of pea-soup fog, zombies, and clockwork automata makes for an excellent detective story. Let us hope to see more of Hobbes and Newbury.”

—Booklist
on
The Affinity Bridge

__ 

“ [An] intriguingly bizarre version of 1901 L ondon…a strong addition to the ‘steampunk’ subgenre and one that creates a lively alternative world.”
—Library Journal
on
The Affinity Bridge

The Osiris Ritual

A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation

George Mann

The Osiris Ritual copyright 2009 George Mann

George Mann asserts the right to be identified as the author of this work.

All rights reserved

First edition

Proudly published in 2009 by

Snowbooks Ltd.

120 Pentonville Road

London

N1 9JN

www.snowbooks.com

www.whitemagazine.org

ISBN: 978-1-906727-048

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

www.snowbooks.com/georgemann

Printed and bound in the UK by J F Print Ltd., Sparkford, Somerset Scanned By CrazyAl 2010

Dedication
For Emily May Irene Mann
Acknowledgements

Thanks, as ever, must be extended to Emma Barnes and Liz Gorinsky for continued support. Also to Gordon Fletcher for superb pedantry, and to Jonas Eyles and Craig Caithness for goading him in the pub (and for making me feel better about losing every round of golf to them both). Mark Hodder kept me busy with inspirational reading matter, and Michael Rowley and Mark Newton debated the meaning of life over a number of excellent curries. Lou Anders shared in all of the highs and lows.

And Fiona, James and Emily put up with me spending long hours locked away in the study when I real y should have been doing something else.

About the Author

George Mann is the author of The Affinity Bridge, Ghosts of Manhattan and The Human Abstract, as well as numerous short stories, novellas and an original Doctor Who audiobook. He has edited a number of anthologies including The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, The Solaris Book of New Fantasy and a retrospective col ection of Sexton Blake stories, Sexton Blake, Detective. He lives near Grantham with his wife, son and daughter.

Chapter One

London, February 1902

George Purefoy was running late.

The young reporter hurtled down the street, his notebook clutched tightly in his hand, dodging out of the way of the other pedestrians, who eyed him warily as he raced by like some crazed animal, pursued by an invisible pack of hounds. His sand-coloured hair stung his eyes where it whipped across his face in the driving wind. His dinner suit was crumpled and now, to top things off, it had started to rain. The biggest assignment of his career to date, and things had already started to go terribly wrong.

Purefoy skipped around a red post box, narrowly missed colliding with an elderly gentleman in a top hat, and finally flung himself — at speed — around a bend in the road. There, in the distance, was Albion House, the home of Lord Henry Winthrop. The street outside the house was bathed in bright yellow light from the glare in the windows, and even from here, a good hundred feet away, the noise of the party spil ed out to form a cacophony of chatter in the otherwise quiet London evening.

Purefoy, catching his breath, slowed his pace to a steady walk. He attempted to regain his composure, smoothing his jacket and straightening his tie. Rain pattered lightly on his face. Other guests were still arriving at the big house, and whilst he was most definitely late, it didn’t look to Purefoy like he had missed the main event. At least he hoped not: his career as a reporter depended on it.

Purefoy had made his way here, across town from the office, for the society event of the year, to cover the return of the explorer and philanthropist Lord Henry Winthrop from his expedition to Egypt, and more, to attend the grand unveiling of his greatest find: the mummified remains of an ancient Theban king. There had been a great deal of fanfare about the success of the expedition over the last few weeks, accompanied by wild claims from Winthrop that the mummy was a unique specimen; found still, wrapped in its finery, it was said to bear strange markings that were unfamiliar to any of the experts he had consulted at the British Museum. It was the talk of London, and tonight, Winthrop planned to unwrap the bindings of the long-dead king before a select audience of guests.

Much to the chagrin of his fellow reporters, Purefoy had been offered the assignment to cover the event for The Times, fol owing the success of his recent piece about the revenant plague and the government conspiracy to hide the fact that it was stil spreading unchecked through the London slums. He’d set off in plenty of time, of course, first picking out his best suit and selecting a brand new notebook from his pile. But then the ground train he was on had shuddered to a halt a few streets away, and word had spread throughout the carriages that a spooked horse had caused a cart to overturn, spilling its cargo of rags and bones across the tracks up ahead. Knowing that he didn’t have much further to go, and sure that waiting for the engineers to clear the tracks would cause him to miss the party, he had taken matters into his own hands and instead set out on foot. Now, uncomfortable, damp and late, he was starting to wonder whether the assignment itself was actually more of a curse than the blessing it had at first appeared to be.

Purefoy quickened his step and made his way along the street towards the party. Grand houses loomed over him from both sides of the wide street. This was a London as unfamiliar to him as the slums he usual y found himself writing about. The people who lived in these enormous mansions moved in circles entirely outside of his experience, and he found himself feeling not a little nervous at the prospect of having to hold his own with a crowd of such gentlemen, lords and ladies.

Nevertheless, he was certainly anxious to see what Lord Winthrop had brought back with him from the Middle East, and more specifically to bear witness to the unrolling of the Pharaoh himself.

He stopped at the bottom of the steps to let a lady in a billowing, cream-coloured dress — who had just stepped out of a private carriage — enter the party before him. She offered him a gracious smile as he stepped to one side to al ow her to pass. He eyed the butler by the front door as the man checked the lady’s invitation and showed her inside. Judging by the standard of the servants, Purefoy was starting to feel a little underdressed. He checked his suit again, conscious that he was more than a little crumpled and damp. Sighing, he patted his pockets and located the invitation card.

Then, warily, he mounted the steps and presented the card to the older, balding man, who looked Purefoy up and down and raised an eyebrow before examining the card he’d been handed. There was a brief pause.

“Ah, yes sir. With the Times. Won’t you come this way?” It was as if the man’s entire demeanour had changed upon seeing the invitation. Purefoy gave him a quizzical look. He couldn’t tell whether the butler had altered his previously haughty attitude because of his respect for the newspaper, or because, upon realising that Purefoy was a reporter, he had somehow lowered his expectations. Either way, he supposed it didn’t matter al that much. He fol owed the butler in through the grand porch, which was impressively decorated with a series of stained-glass panels and Minton tiles, and stepped through the inner door that the butler held open for him on the other side. A moment later he was standing in the grand hallway, where the party was already in full swing.

Purefoy gazed on in amazement. It was like nothing he’d seen before, in all of his life. An enormous staircase dominated the space, its sweeping banisters curving up to form a large gallery that looked down upon the bustling hall. Glass cabinets had been erected at regular intervals all around the tiled floor, filled with the most wondrous gilded treasures from the tomb of the mummified king. People milled around these cabinets, cooing appreciatively, drinks in hand, courting one another with sidelong glances and averted gazes. Purefoy almost laughed out loud. It was like every cliché he could have imagined, and more sumptuous and extravagant than even those. The women floated around in the most magnificent dresses of coloured silk, brandishing their drinks like weapons. The men looked austere in their formal attire, and clustered together in little groups, talking in hushed tones. This, Purefoy thought to himself, is all of London society, here together in one room. He didn’t know whether to be giddy or appal ed at the thought.

Feeling a little lost, Purefoy cast around for anyone he recognised. There were faces he’d seen in portraits and photographs, but no one it would be proper for him to approach at a party, at least without a formal introduction. Up on the gal ery, he noted Lord Winthrop himself was resting against the balustrade, surveying the scene below. He was sporting a wide grin. When he spotted Purefoy looking, he offered the reporter a little wave, and then pushed himself away from his perch and began making his way along the landing towards the stairs.

Purefoy had met Lord Winthrop only once before, the prior week, when the lord had visited the offices of The Times to discuss an exclusive on the story with the editor. He seemed like a gregarious sort of chap, with a welcoming manner, but Purefoy was not so naive as to miss the fact that the only reason Winthrop was making a beeline towards him through the party was because his inflated ego compelled him to entertain the reporter who would be providing a write-up of his event for the morning edition. He smiled and held out his hand as the lord approached him, the other guests turning to see who their host had decided to grace with his presence.

“Mr. Purefoy! A pleasure. Are you enjoying the party?” Lord Winthrop was a tall, stocky man with broad shoulders, a long, greying beard and a receding hairline. He carried his weight around his jowls and his waist, and his voice was friendly but with an overbearing boom.

Purefoy smiled. “Alas, I’ve only this moment arrived. An accident in the road meant I had to finish my journey on foot. I trust I haven’t missed the main event?”

Winthrop patted Purefoy easily on the shoulder. “Not at all, my good man. Not at all. It’s been four thousand years since the Theban was confined to his bandages. I’d say there is no imperative to rush, wouldn’t you? Now, let’s get you a drink. .” Chuckling, Winthrop gestured towards the row of statues situated along the back wal , to either side of the huge staircase. Purefoy watched, fascinated, as one of the statues stepped down from its perch, collected a tray of drinks from a nearby table, and made its way jerkily towards them. Purefoy had assumed the statues were part of the display, items brought back from the expedition by Winthrop and his team. The one coming towards them looked every bit the part: a flawless, life-size replica of an Ancient Egyptian statue, replete with carved headdress and blank, staring eyes.

Winthrop laughed when he saw the young reporter’s expression. “Dear boy, haven’t you seen one of these new Ottoman automaton devices?”

BOOK: The Osiris Ritual
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